November 13, 2015

They struck at the heart of France, at the soul of Paris.  Their targets were not soldiers or government officials; their targets were us – people like us in cafes, kids at a concert featuring an American rock group, sports enthusiasts at a soccer match between France and Germany, people enjoying the pleasures of an open society.  At last count, almost 130 are dead, and about 350 are wounded.  The immediate result, terror and fear that will last far longer than the time it will take to bury the dead and to heal the physical wounds.  They struck at the citizens of France, and at refugees from Syria, from Afghanistan and from Iraq who are fleeing from them into Europe, victims  who may well become suspect and marginalized in their host countries.

Strategically the attack may indicate a weakness in ISIS’ aim to establish a caliphate that they hope will include all of Europe.  Losing the battle on the ground, and with the recent assassinations of some key leaders, they have turned to the streets beyond Syria and Lebanon, not only to frightened and dishearten, but to recruit, to say to the disenfranchised, ‘See what we can do.  Join us to get attention.’

Their goal is to sow discord and to divide society.  And so the only response is to unite against them.  On the small scale, Parisians opened their doors to the traumatized and to the wounded.  Rather than shutter themselves in their homes, others took to the streets to do what they could.  On the larger scale of the world,  in Vienna, American Secretary of State John Kerry and  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stood shoulder to shoulder to condemn the actions of the barbarians.  Might this catastrophe open a way for the civilized of the world to find a political settlement to the destruction of Syria, which would be a defeat for the annihilators.  The days and weeks ahead will tell.

We know, we Americans – we New Yorkers – know the pain of Paris.  We can only hope that humanity will triumph over fear, that understanding will trump hate.  We stand with our French sisters and brothers with open hands and open hearts