Beirut, Paris, and the War on Madness


Recent weeks have found the terrorists linked to ISIS seeking bloodshed on a widening scale.

On Halloween, a bomb brought down a Russian charter jet over Egypt, killing all 224 aboard. This past Thursday, a pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up in Beirut, taking more than 40 innocent lives and leaving hundreds wounded. And on Friday night, fanatics struck at a soccer stadium, several restaurants, and a rock music venue in Paris, murdering more than 120 and injuring hundreds more.

While it’s always hard to truly know the minds of zealots, we can assume that the date of the Paris attack was no coincidence. ISIS desperately hopes the West’s cultural obsession with Friday the 13th will amplify our fear.

Back in January, when ISIS took aim at the artists and journalists writing for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the symbolism of their target — a champion of fearless free thought — was intended to intimidate. When they returned last week, they shot their way through the heart of that very same progressive, freethinking neighborhood on the Right Bank, murdering scores of us.

Yes, us.

Paris’s 10th and 11th arrondissements are cousins of Williamsburg, Bushwick, the East Village, West Village, and all of the other neighborhoods like them in New York City and beyond. Places where free thought and discourse are encouraged, even presumed, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

Places that create and cultivate things like this newspaper.

When Charlie Hebdo was attacked, the reaction was swift and inspiring. Je suis Charlie. We rallied to their cause. It was stirring, and effective.

Free thought, artistic expression, a free press — these constitute the enemy they most fear.

Clearly, though, ISIS is not merely interested in silencing cartoonists who blaspheme the Prophet. The terror group is determined to silence all who do not think the way they do.

Pointedly, they want to muzzle the type of culture that best competes for the hearts and minds of those they seek to recruit. They know that governments and corporations are easy devils to invoke. But free thought, artistic expression, a free press: These constitute an enemy they fear.

We recognize this too and want to respond. But this time it’s harder to reduce to a rallying cry. Je suis…what?

Perhaps it is past the point of coining slogans, or of painting our Facebook profiles tricolor.

Perhaps now that the terror group wants us to worry that Washington, D.C., is next, it is time to remind ourselves of last time, when we resolved to keep living the way we do, to keep loudly espousing what we believe is right. To keep enlisting to our cause, recruiting by our example. To keep living free and fearlessly, so that they will continue to fear us.