Saturday, November 14, 2015

Death in the evening

I never thought about it, to be honest. And that was not because I was naïve or mindless or disconnected from the world in which I lived, from its insanity and its bloodlust and all the thundering consequence of its too-often blind history.

No, in 38 years as a sportswriter -- 38 years in which my job dictated my presence in large, open, public spaces -- I never dwelled on what could happen. I never dwelled on what would happen if this was the day when jackal terrorists hit the Super Bowl or the Final Four or the Indianapolis 500, because dwelling on it wouldn't stop it from happening. And I knew nothing much could stop it from happening, short of becoming the sort of police state that would, in the end, merely fulfill all  the jackals' goals.

And which, in the end, wouldn't keep us "safe" from them anyway. Whatever that word means anymore.

I never thought about it. But, of course, we are all compelled to think about it this morning, in the wake of the jackals' attack on one of the world's grand cities, Paris.

 One hundred twenty-seven are dead this morning, and the jackals are capering in glee. That's because, as always, they hit us where it hurts. Barbarians to the core of their being, they hit what they hate most, which is civilization. And so they struck places where people were just living their lives: cafes and a concert hall and, yes, right outside an athletic stadium, where the national sides of France and Germany were playing a soccer friendly.

Several explosions went off outside the stadium, and everyone inside flinched. The miracle is that's all they did. The game went on. The spectators spectated. It was the only small victory on a night when civilization took one right in the solar plexus.

And today, of course, there will be those who will insist on helping the jackals finish that work. The usual suspects will invoke the usual themes: Close the borders, buy more guns, lock up all the Muslims, send ground troops back into the Middle East. Repeat a lot of the same mistakes that gave the Islamic State life to begin with.

 And if by doing all those things we might -- might -- be able to destroy it ... what next?

Because, in the Middle East, something will always be next. And it will almost always be worse than what came before it.

So what's the solution?

I don't know that there is one, or at least a permanent one. Those things are far above my pay grade. What I do know is this: You do anything you can to fight the jackals without abandoning what made you the nation or nations they so hate. You keep going to the cafes. You keep going to the concert halls. You keep going to the soccer stadiums. You maintain civilization, and you do it without fear.

Yes, that will occasionally make you vulnerable to what happened in Paris. But the reason terrorism is so effective is that nothing you can do -- again, short of becoming the sort of police state that betrays all your principles as a free nation -- can entirely protect you from it. The crazy with the bomb will always find a way no matter how totalitarian you choose to become.

I never thought about it.

I never thought about it even when I stood in line for half an hour going through security at the Super Bowl. Or passed through a metal detector every time I went in and out of the media center at the U.S. Grand Prix. Or sat in packed stadiums and arenas liked a sitting duck.

This is not because I was naïve or mindless or disconnected from the world. It's because, well, screw the barbarians.

Screw 'em.


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