Since part of this blog attempts to comment on/document current events for future readers, this post will be primarily about the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. And I will also discuss some particularly hysterical, nationalistic American reactions to those attacks (hence the title).
The very nature of terrorism is such that attacks are designed to paralyze societies with fear. In that way, the latest attacks were somewhat successful, because I read/hear/see a lot of very terrified people now. Which is amazing, considering I live in Central Pennsylvania, a rather bucolic and boring part of the US.
I would say that the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Altoona or Hollidaysburg is basically non-existent. But the people here are scared to death, or at least a very vocal sector is.
Here is the timeline of the attacks, courtesy of the Irish Times website (“Paris Terror Attacks: A Timeline from Friday to Thursday”, no author named, 11/19/2015):
~ At 9:20 PM, the first of 3 explosions is heard at the Stade de France, where fans were watching France play Germany in a “friendly” (soccer, or European football match, where the outcome does not affect a team’s rank).
~ At 9:25 PM, a black sedan pulls up near a crowded restaurant/bar, and 2 men with Kalashnikovs get out and spray the place with bullets, killing 15 people.
~ At 9:30 PM, the second bomb goes off at the Stade de France. 2 bombers and 1 unidentified man are killed.
~ At 9:33 PM, another black sedan pulls up outside a restaurant, men get out and start shooting. 5 people are killed and 8 are seriously injured.
~ At 9:36 PM, another shooting occurs outside a restaurant, killing 19 people. Most of them had been sitting outside, enjoying the evening.
~ At 9:40 PM, a man walks into yet another restaurant and detonates an explosive vest. He is killed and 15 people are injured.
~ At 9:46 PM, the president of France (who was also at the stadium at the time of the attacks) prepares to declare a state of emergency.
~ At 9:49 PM, gunmen enter a theater where a rock concert is taking place and start shooting. Some take hostages on the stage. The police finally storm the theater at 12:20, but by that time 89 people are dead.
~ At 9:53 PM, an attacker detonates an explosive vest outside McDonald’s, apparently killing only himself.
~ At 11:30 PM, President Hollande declares a state of emergency.
~ In the next few days, places in Belgium and Germany are raided. Arrests are made, mostly for people being connected to a person who police know was involved in the attacks – Bilal Hadfi, one of the jihadists who blew himself up outside the French stadium.
~ Police also raid a residence in Saint-Denis on Wednesday, killing the person who coordinated the attacks – Abdelhamid Abaaoud. A woman detonated a vest during the raid, and was also killed.
At the time of this blog post, 129 people are dead, and 352 are injured (99 critically so). The victims are from 15 different countries (Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Chile, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, and the US).
All 7 attackers are dead – 6 from suicide and 1 shot by police (“Paris Attacks: French Terrorist Named as Vigils Held Around the World – As It Happened”, Chris Johnston, Ben Quinn, Raya Jalabi, and Claire Phipps, The Guardian online, 11/15/15).
One of the attackers is French, named Omar Ismail Mostefai, from the south of France (Ibid). Not a recent immigrant – he was born in France. This is important, I think, when looking at the reaction of some people, who blame immigrants for this incident.
That’s all I am going to write about him, because I don’t think he deserves any more words. I have read a lot of commentary about this incident, and about jihadists and their motivations and so on, but what it comes down to for me, as a psychologist, is this:
It doesn’t matter what happens outside of you, it is something internal to you that causes you to behave in this monstrous way. YOU. Not the US, not Israel, not religion, not your parents, not your poverty, not your race. YOU are ultimately responsible for what you do, and it takes a very warped (or non-existent) moral compass to step over the line from hating to murdering.
So, anyway, that was the basic timeline.
Immediately, people made French-flag-colored avatars to paste over their Facebook pictures, to show their solidarity with France.
Aside #1: Really nice of them to do that, I guess, but what about the attacks in Nigeria recently? An 11 year old girl blew herself up in a marketplace, no doubt forced to by Boko Haram – who claimed responsibility (“Police: Bombers, One of Them 11, Target Nigeria Market”, Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN website, 11/19/15). Where’s her flag? I guess some of us only care about what happens in white Europe.
Many posted extremely hateful things about Muslims and immigrants, blaming them for the tragedy. A lot of Americans ranted about the US taking in and relocating refugees from Syria, claiming that jihadists are “sneaking in” that way.
This climate of fear is being fueled by sites such as Fox News, Breitbart, Allen West, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump. These guys are right-wing “Christians”, who do not want the US to take in refugees.
But, according to WorldVision – which is an evangelical Christian organization founded in 1950 – half of the 12 million people who are fleeing Syria are children.
They are fleeing due to violence (over 240,000 people have been killed since the Syrian civil war began, and 12,000 of them were children). Aid groups have a hard time reaching people in Syria who need help, because the Syrian infrastructure has been destroyed (you know, things like hospitals and schools). Sometimes children are used as combatants and shields, too (“What You Need to Know: Crisis in Syria, Refugees, and the Impact on Children”, World Vision Staff, World Vision website, 11/3/15).
When Americans say, “Well, why don’t they go to Saudi Arabia or Jordan, instead of coming here?”, the answer is simple: they are not welcome there.
Those countries do not even have resettlement programs – people can go there to work as skilled workers, or stay in refugee camps, but they are never allowed to become citizens and their stays can be cancelled at any time, for any reason (“Gulf States Fend Off Criticism About Doing Little for Syrian Refugees”, Deborah Amos, NPR website, 11/20/15).
So they flee to Europe, where they hope they will be safe. And they also would like to come to the US, as our country still does have the reputation of taking in and caring for people who need us.
Do people forget the Statue of Liberty, given to us by France? Oh, the irony.