SEE POSTNOTE AT END OF THIS POST:
We learned of the unfolding tragedy in Paris last Friday evening. Immediately, at 5:55 p.m. I sent a quick note to our friend, long-time Parisian, Christine: “The tragedy is, of course, being heavily covered here in the U.S…thoughts are with you and everyone.”
In minutes came Christine’s reply: “We are now talking up to 100 dead and as many heavily injured. It is so frightening…. It is not even finished yet….. Snipers everywhere…. Some are talking about 200 dead now as I am writing…. I can’t sleep and I am crying alone…. None of my family are unsafe, thanks God.”
Saturday morning we headed to North Dakota for a long-planned weekend.
I never travel with computer, and rarely listen to the radio on the road, so I don’t stay up to date.
At the motel in LaMoure, the TV brought the media interpretation.
A congresswoman from Indiana was voicing a common talking point from the right: essentially, the problem was President Obama’s fault.
A later clip talked about an alleged perpetrator having a Syrian passport, and a direct inference to the refugees flooding into Europe: a rich opportunity to gin up anti-immigrant hysteria.
Sunday morning the story focused on the one known American victim, a young woman from California.
Sunday night, back home, Sixty Minutes had an instant analysis with Scott Pelley interviewing (so I recall) three people in the allotted fifteen minutes or so. Being Sixty Minutes, it brought an authoritative “first rough draft of history” to the crisis.
So it goes with short-hand and instant journalism….
Christine’s response was totally normal. Shock. Something very bad had just happened in her city; something very bad had happened in Paris in January as well: the Charley Hebdo massacre. It is very easy to lose equilibrium, at least temporarily. Anyone of adult age has experienced some crisis; one that leaves us reeling.
Time most always brings balance, but it takes time.
The congresswoman and the media spin present a unique problem of contemporary media: a race to a sought conclusion; to make news instantly. Here, somebody must do something, and destroy the problem RIGHT NOW.
Such a problem is also a political opportunity to move a particular agenda. Anyone with a keypad (including me) can speak. Being adult, thinking things through, and acting accordingly, is less desirable.
My mind keeps going back to 9-11-01, and our collective national response at that time.
There was, let’s be honest about this, a near universal call for some kind of revenge after 9-11: 94% of the citizenry approved the bombing of Afghanistan in October, 2001 (Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001). There was something akin to nationally sanctioned murder: it felt good, apparently, for us to get even, immediately. Any politician at the time can be excused for being soft on the going after the evildoers. We, the people, wanted revenge; each and every politician casting a wrong (anti-war) vote would have been an easy target. We demanded retribution.
(I was in the 6% against sanctioned violence then. I could see no good coming out of our response.
It was a very lonely place to be, then. My thoughts in the Minneapolis Star Tribune six months later: Dick B STrib 4-20-02001
I think I was right, then.
What is ahead, three days into a genuine tragedy in Paris?
After 9-11-01, normal shock was transformed into a disastrous war with Iraq which lives on in ISIS in its assorted descriptions and manifestations. The monster has been created, and we created it.
Odds are 100% certain that there will be other incidents, if not in France, somewhere else. Let’s not forget, however, that there have been other incidents, before. Oklahoma City in 1995 comes to mind; the Littleton school killings in 1999. On and on.
What I hope for now is what I hoped for 14 years ago: a mature adult response by national and world leaders to a serious problem. Hopefully we learned at least a few lessons from the post 9-11 debacle.
I’ll watch how the French respond, and I hope it won’t be hysterical as ours was, after 9-11-01.
Here, with her permission and my thanks, are Christine’s comments earlier today: “We are hearing now [lunch time in France, 6 a.m. Minnesota time] about the war developments (bombing from the French over Daech headquarters in Dakka, the US initiative from President Obama about oil tanks in Syria (New York Times) …. It does not stop. And testimonies, interviews….The terrorists were preparing the attacks from Belgium and the Belgium people are collaborating with the French….
We have an extraordinary meeting of the Senators and Representatives together in Versailles to listen to the President Hollande. (He has no right to penetrate any of the Chambers) at 4 o clock (our time of course). President Hollande is extremely worried about more imminent terror attacks and therefore keeps people being frightened and anxious. He wants to keep the “emergency state” up to 3 months and that is the reason for bringing this extraordinary assembly because he, alone, can only make that decision for 12 days. To make it longer, he needs to be approved by both chambers. This emergency state gives the government more rights over private rights like arresting people, searching in private houses, expelling people and depriving some from the French nationality… and more….”
POSTNOTE November 17:
Several days after Friday the 13th I’ve been attentive to the “chatter” of genuine real people (beyond on the headlines and the news leads on television news).
Out in LaMoure we were at a gathering of 150 people Saturday night. A few hours after the tragedy, the topic of Paris didn’t come up in any way in my hearing; at another meeting last night, it wasn’t mentioned either. Yes, there is e-chatter, but it is far less than after 9-11-01.
My favorite summarizer of national news helps bring me up to date each day, and here is his digest overnite. He seems to catch the mood pretty well.
Perhaps, just perhaps, unlike 9-11-01, 11-13-15 is potentially reflecting more of an adult response to a situation.
I can hope.
In my home office, within eyeshot to my left, are two boxes full of paper, 9″ in height. They have been there for a dozen years, and I cannot bring myself to throw them out. They are two years of e-mails between friends between 9-11-01 and the end of November, 2003. Someone else will have to throw them out when I’m out of the picture. I guess they represent an important part of my own personal history.
SEE POSTNOTE AT END OF THIS POST: