There were two Hallowe'en "shows" in Manhattan yesterday: the show must go on and show some respect for the victims. Two reactions to the new reality on Planet Earth 2017, a world in which international terrorism is now here to stay for at least another generation, in which lone wolf attacks fueled by lunacy easily accessed through the Internet have become part of our monthly newsfeed. So hey, let's party!
Perhaps by examining the reactions to terror incidents such as the Hallowe'en attack in Manhattan we can reach a collective conclusion and try to make some sense out of the cloak of madness which has descended upon us since Western interests started cavorting with Islamist fanaticism in the late 1970s and let the genie out of the bottle.
The facts: Shocking, terrible for the families and loved ones whose lives have been destroyed yet no different from the countless other terror attacks which have taken place in the USA and in Western Europe, and Syria, and Iraq, and Libya, and Yemen, and Somalia, and Afghanistan. France, Egypt, Paraguay. Turkey, Bahrain, India. Niger, Pakistan, Philippines. Saudi Arabia, DR Congo, Central African Republic. Ukraine, Kenya, Nigeria. Cameroon. I am citing just those terrorist incidents recorded in the international news in October 2017.
So when Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov rented his Home Depot truck and drove it along the cycle path on Hallowe'en on New York's Manhattan West Side Highway, near the World Trade Center, murdering eight people and injuring another eleven, at least, how to react? President Trump calls from Twitter for further vetting. Some cry. Others shrug and a lot of others carried on with their Hallowe'en parties as if nothing had happened.
Taking them one by one, starting with the first, the reaction of the President of the United States of America is perhaps the most idiotic, raising the question whether he has any emotional intelligence at all. If Saipov came from Uzbekhistan in 2017 and was not on the radar since then, having been secretly radicalized or else having radicalized himself before dedicating his act of stupidity to Islamic State (basically a bunch of psychopathic lunatics), and since Uzbekhistan is not on the vetting list, how does President Trump expect to make any difference at all to lone wolf attacks? By Tweeting on Twitter? "Jeez folks this dude just drove a truck into a load of folks on a bike path. Terrible. Stand by for some serious action! Are you ready for this?"
In Russia, the reaction would have been to cancel all public celebrations, fly the flags at half mast, and for people to honor the victims, changing their plans and being discreet. It is called showing some respect for the dead and their families.
That is why the reaction of those who appeared to shrug and carry on with their Hallowe'en parties as usual has shocked so many people and raised quite a few eyebrows and many are the conversations on public transports and in cafés this morning about quite how strange the American reaction to this tragedy appears.
True, the show must go on and true, one has the option of admitting defeat or else of standing defiantly against a cause which is alien to the hearts and minds of Humankind. But you can do that tomorrow. Or next week. And what is shocking is the idea that our societies have become so used to random violence that a horrific act of mass murder like this can be brushed off as another lone wolf terrorist incident oh dear, how terrible, never mind. Hey shall we start off with a few Manhattan's? Ah shucks we're out of sweet vermouth. And where the hell is my Spiderman costume?
What is shocking is that our mass media have sold acts of mass murder as being heroic and as "keeping us safe". Let us be perfectly clear about this. There is no difference whatsoever between what happened in Manhattan and members of a Pashtun wedding party in Afghanistan, members of a tribal community in northern Pakistan, women going to market to buy bread in Iraq or kids playing in the sand in Libya being blasted to pieces by an American coward in the sky flying at 30,000 feet or by a yellow-bellied loser behind a joystick in the Nevada desert flying a murder machine called a drone or Syrian soldiers fighting ISIS being roasted alive by a 100-million-buck missile attack ordered by a trigger-happy nutjob in the White House.
And I repeat, with all due respect to the dead and injured and their friends, families and loved ones, there is no difference whatsoever between an American citizen being murdered by an Uzbekh immigrant in New York and an Iraqi boy having his face blown off and his family blown away by an American coward dropping a bomb. But where do you see that written in the international media? You don't.
So let us stop glorigying mass murder by turning a blind eye to NATO's acts of intrusion, of skulduggery, cloak-and-dagger diplomacy, bullying, blackmail and belligerence, interference and murder half-way across the globe, let us stop pretending that Washington's own cavorting with terrorists time and time again in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Libya and in Iraq and in Syria let the genie out of the bottle. Let us stop accepting nonchalantly that the western approach to international relations and crisis management - intrusion, insolence and impudence, chauvinism, chutzpah and contempt - creates anything other than the nonchalance, shoulder-shrug reaction demonstrated by New Yorkers going about their Hallowe'en festivities as we saw yesterday. Why? Because by failing to call Washington out when the US policymakers get it wrong, we fail to address core issues which create the mess we are living in.
It is time for the citizens to own the street, to own the presidency, to own the podium of political power, to wrest the decision-making process from those who have created the world we live in - polluted from space to the bottom of the oceans, violent, unsafe, expensive, unpleasant, threatening and insecure. Sure, I want to go to Hallowe'en parties and Carnival parties and wedding parties and Eid parties in peace. But I am not going to get there by pretending that things are normal and acting as if nothing happened.
It did. And will continue to do so until we hold the political leadership of western countries to account. So let us mourn, show some respect for the dead and during that period of silence and reflection, plan to change things around to create a better world. Trump thinks that firing missiles against Syrian soldiers fighting ISIS will do the trick. Yeah, right.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
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