Friday, July 08, 2005

London attacked

A terrible, terrible thing yesterday. I have only seen the pictures from news sites. We are without a television right now so we haven’t seen any of the footage. But the pictures are very familiar.

I love London. It is one of my favorite cities of the world. In 1998, I was there for a few weeks and got to know the “tube”-- the subway-- very well. I took it everywhere. I got to know it so well in fact that I could answer Londoner’s questions about how to get to there from “here.” (Some actually asked me.)

So I am familiar with some of the station names in the news yesterday and today. And I think it was Tavistock Square that I passed on my way to the British Museum when I was there. (I don’t have my maps here from that trip so I am not absolutely sure. But I did pass a square when I came to the museum from the north. See the map here.) That is the square near where the bomb went off on the double-decker bus.

Those who have spoken on the bombings have talked in terms of innocents. To the enemy they are not innocents at all but are part of Dar al-harb or that part of the world not under the sway of Islam that fundamentalist Islam is at war with. Those not under Islam are not innocent ac\cording to them. They are the enemy to be dealt with as enemy. To these fundamentalists, there is no such thing as non-combatants. All are combatants, all are the enemy, and that makes all guilty.

But that point of view is not limited to fundamentalist Islam, I’m afraid. We in the modern, tolerant West find whole classes of people to be guilty simply because of how they are classified. So people in the red states are dismissed as something less than human to be discarded at the first opportunity; the unborn constitute a threat; those who are religious are the real enemy; and so on and so on. And the hatreds of so tolerant a people thicken the air.

After the dust settles and the blood is all mopped up, you can expect that some in the tolerant West will actually argue that the people who were killed were not really so innocent after all. It has started already with the “if-these-people-weren’t-so-poor-they-wouldn’t-have-done- this” kind of talk. (Read: “If we weren’t so greedy in the West this wouldn’t have happened.” All are guilty of greed.) It will be said that these people who were killed and maimed were really a part of the oppressors who keep the rest of humanity down. They may not all say it—some things may still be beyond the pale, especially now—but what will be unstated is that they really did deserve what they got. Falwell, Robertson et al, will say these people deserved it because of wickedness. “But these guys are religious bigots. They would say that. Now give me the class struggle. That’s a entirely different thing altogether.”

Anyway, yesterday innocent people were targeted and killed. The only thing good to have come from that is that it could have been much, much worse. It may end up being called Britain’s 9/11 but it won’t have been on that kind of scale. That is not a criticism--it is something to be thankful for.

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