Common sense & decency in the face of terror

Andy Frakes

In the past seven days, I was in three different airports. On Sunday morning, in the stuffy Delta terminals of LaGuardia, I sat down next to a perspiring Japanese man. Security was heightened, which meant everyone had to board their planes earlier and take extra time at security checks.

The gate’s seating was so crowded that strangers were sharing booths and tables.re-AndyMugUSE

I had one hand full with an overstuffed paper gift bag (early Christmas shopping) and a drink and breakfast sandwich from the food court in the other hand. My shoulders ached from carrying a week’s worth of stuff in
my backpack.

This man looked at me as I tried to sit down without dropping anything and quickly slid his belongings over to make room for me. He was watching the TVs carefully.

He smiled and nodded wordlessly as we made eye contact. I returned the gesture, and we sat there in a companionable silence as I sipped my coffee and waited to board my flight—our flight—to Detroit.

On TV screens all around was coverage of the aftermath in Paris, France.

As most of us are aware, on Friday, November 13, a series of coordinated attacks left nearly 150 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the shootings, bombings, and hostage-taking.

Multi-national air strikes, enacted since then, have taken out several ISIS camps and outposts in northern Africa.

In the wake of this tragic terrorist attack, as well as others in Beirut and Baghdad and associated fighting and retaliatory attacks, we—all nations and all faiths—find ourselves groping for something to sink our
teeth into.

One man, a journalist with France Bleu, lost his wife in the concert shooting in Paris.

This man, Antoine Leiris, wrote a Facebook post, which has been viewed nearly 100,000 times, in tribute to his wife and addressing the
perpetrators of the attacks.

“You won’t have my hate,” Leiris wrote. “On Friday night you took the life of someone exceptional, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but I
will not hate you.

I do not know who you are and I do not want to know. You are dead inside. If the God for whom you blindly kill really made us in his image, then each bullet in my wife’s body is a wound to his heart.”

Leiris’ heartfelt response went on to say he refused to let his grief turn into hate because that would mean succumbing to exactly what the terrorists
intended.

The biggest domestic problem for us, as per usual in an us-versus-them sort of scenario, is cultural and racial profiling amongst the ignorant.

The mere possibility of extremists riding the refugee wave (though it’s becoming more likely, as new information surfaces) creates tension between the refugee population in any country and the established population. People begin to question whether we can risk allowing the refugees into our country at all.

Several prominent members of Congress and the Senate have vowed to close our borders to combat this risk; one can’t entirely blame them, right?

I’d rather not be shot or blown up, especially in my own country. Loretta Lynch, our Attorney General, states that all Syrian refugees being allowed into the U.S. will be significantly vetted before being allowed in.

But here’s the rub: terrorism has no religion, no nationality.

Terrorism isn’t just bombs and airplanes and caricaturized Middle-Eastern men, despite the general attitude we Americans develop from national media coverage (yes, I’m calling you all out).

To be a terrorist is to try to strike fear; to do damage. What about all the school shootings perpetrated by caucasian
Americans?

What about the highway snipers in the Southwest and on the East Coast? Gang warfare?

Terrorism is here. Perhaps what we’ve seen hasn’t been on the scale of attacks seen abroad, apart from what happened in September of 2001, but make no mistake: we have terrorism in the U.S., whether or not we allow Syrian refugees to take shelter on our soil.

Making this point doesn’t actually solve anything, and it pains me to acknowledge this, but I think it does grant us some perspective and perhaps a course of action on an individual basis: be careful and vigilant, to be sure. The enemy isn’t far away.

We must keep living and being as decent as we can be. The only way the terrorists can win is if we let them.