Thursday, July 07, 2005

Last night I read a passage in Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons that defined terrorism’s goals:
Quite simply, the goal of terrorism is to create terror and fear. Fear undermines faith in the establishment. It weakens the enemy from within…causing unrest in the masses. Terrorism is not an expression of rage. Terrorism is a political weapon. Remove a government’s facade of infallibility, and you remove its people’s faith.
I thought, at the time, well it worked exactly in that way for Madrid, but what about 9/11? The Bush administration didn’t topple, it got stronger and Bush used the bombings as a rallying point to get us more deeply involved in the Middle East. Okay, Americans lost faith in our position in the rest of the world as favored citizens (though any Ami living in Western Europe would surely have already realized that we’d lost that position long ago). But what political end did Al-Quaeda achieve? And can we look at terrorism’s goals as really that coherent?

Today I was in a conference call when I read an email highlight coming in from a friend based in London. “There’s been a series of explosions, but I’m all right,” he wrote. I don't remember the rest of the conversation, and as soon as I could I got off the phone and started checking the news, switching between the BBC and The New York Times, waiting for their websites to reload with more information, and calling other friends in London to make sure they were okay too. But I also kept working and everyone else I talked to did too. The world didn’t stop today the way it did four years ago, when bombings in public places in western world countries seemed impossibilities, scenarios designed for Hollywood thrillers or Dan Brown novels.

Is this a good thing, our response today? Does it suggest that we are fighting terrorism’s affect the only way we can – by not letting it stop our lives, by not losing faith in a government or the people of a country, by rallying and getting back to the business of living. Or does it mean we have become like ants, dispassionately scurrying across our hill, ready to build again and again so long as life and order remain possibilities.

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