Everything has been said. Every thesis posed. Every conclusion drawn.
All that’s left after Brussels is a political Groundhog Day: the endless rehashing of empty debates. Empty, because the contradictions on which they depend do not in fact exist. Empty, because the discord they suggest is not even remotely felt by the vast majority of mankind.
But as happens on eternally recurring days, at some point exhaustion sets in. And then despondence takes over. The first to succumb are the rational, the reasonable, the regular folks – a group better known as nearly everyone.
These are the people who know full well that attacks ushered in with Allahu Akbar and claimed by groups with names like Islamic State are unmistakably linked with Islam. Who have never denied the connection. And who are bone-tired of being charged that they have.
These are people who at the same time know that a religion practiced by a billion and a half people and with a gazillion interpretations cannot be the only or even the most important cause of terrorism. Who thus refuse to see every Muslim as a potential terrorist. And who are bone-tired of having to say so, over and over.
These are people who think it’s only logical that we worry just a little more about violence that hits close to home and hurts people very much like ourselves. Who know that that’s somewhat problematic and even a bit hypocritical. And who are bone-tired of the game of victim one-upmanship that usually happens next.
These are people who have no doubt that the blame for terrorism lies first and foremost with its perpetrators, and who think hard action and severe punishment are more than justified when attacks are planned or committed. But who at the same time are not blind to the role that we — the West — ourselves play through the wars we wage, the bombs we drop, and the rhetoric we employ. And who are bone-tired of being called “traitors” or “self-haters” for saying so.
These are people who think it’s only human to be scared by explosions in metro stations, and to grow more wary of people who look like the ones you see exploding the bombs again and again on the news. Who therefore remind themselves of statistics that show a car crash is far more likely, and that a beard does not signal a causal link to dark and nefarious plans. And who are bone-tired of being told that that means they are “downplaying” or “denying” the problem.
These are people who understand that we can fundamentally differ in our opinions on how to combat terrorism, and who see nothing wrong with heated political debate. But who also think it’s a dead-end street to cast everything in terms of “left” and “right,” where the former is a synonym for tea-drinking, capitulating terrorist-lovers and the latter for xenophobic, racist immigrant-haters. And who are bone-tired of always being shunted into one cubbyhole or the other.
These are people who, in the search for solutions, prefer to take the middle road: by targeted surveillance instead of treating everyone as suspect, by de-escalating instead of hitting back hard, and by not circumventing the rule of law in favor of gut emotion. Who live in the knowledge that a free society can never truly do anything to stop terrorism without obliterating the freedoms it is trying to protect. And who are bone-tired of politicians who promise false security in exchange for an extra vote.
In short, these are people like you and me. Native and newcomer, Muslim and non-Muslim, left and right, progressive and conservative, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. People better known as nearly everyone.
Who know the difference between discernment and denial. Who know the difference between fault and influence. Who know the difference between disagreement and treason. Who know the difference between here and there. Who know the difference between understanding and excusing. Who know the difference between fear and hatred. Who know the difference between mistrust and racism. Who know the difference between calamity and causality. Who know the difference between faith and blowing yourself up.
And most of all: who know that, actually, we’re not so different from each other at all.
But you don’t hear from these people very often. Because they don’t make good headlines. They don’t bring in votes. And Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t exactly reward them, either.
But they’re out there.
In far greater numbers than we ourselves realize.
—English translation by Grayson Morris and Erica Moore