My 19-year-old stepson has been in France, in the city of Lyon, most of the summer. He's taking an intensive French language course, attempting to learn his mother's native tongue.
It goes without saying that we were more than a little unnerved when an Islamist terrorist drove a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, killing 84 people. And it didn't help our nerves when, this week, two ISIL-affiliated terrorists held church-goers hostage in a village in Northern France and murdered a priest, before being shot by police. We were worried, but we decided to let him stay, thinking that the odds were still quite low that he'd be impacted by a terror attack. Such is our world.
The mass attacks seem to be coming in waves now. In Japan, 19 disabled patients at a nursing facility were murdered in their sleep by a disgruntled and mentally-disturbed ex-employee. Last week, there was an attack on a train in Germany by an ax-wielding Afghan teen who appeared to have been influenced by ISIL. In recent days, there have been attacks in Turkey; mass killings in Nigeria; suicide bombings in Syria. It's overwhelming.
If, as I did, you google "terrorist attacks in July 2016," you get 165 incidents in 36 countries (and counting, as of this writing), resulting in more than 1,300 dead around the world. That's just July, folks.
Most of the attacks were in the Middle East and Africa, though there were incidents in Germany, France, Thailand, Madagascar, Bali, and other countries, as well. The majority of the victims were Muslim, including more than 300 killed in Baghdad in a single day's bombing.
Incidents that once would have made the world stop and mourn have become routine. As of July, we're averaging more than five terror attacks per day, world-wide.
It's increasingly obvious that we are not going to be able to "bomb terrorism into the Stone Age." Terrorism is everywhere. No single country can fix it. No single person, no matter how tough and strong he may think he is, can stop it. The problem is complex and multi-layered. You can destroy a beehive by killing its queen. Cockroaches are different. Squash one and another shows up to take its place, and the fear of death is not a deterrent.
Terrorism thrives on creating fear. It's the food left on the countertop. And fear is the bread and butter of Donald Trump, who wants to scare us into electing him so he can protect us. How? He'll let us know the details later. In the meantime, he's busy threatening our NATO alliance, which includes many countries on the front-lines in the battle against terrorism, countries with whom we share intelligence and military assistance. He's inciting fear and prejudice against Muslims, who are, as I mentioned, the predominant victims of ISIL. He is proposing to do the exact opposite of what we ought to be doing, which is solidifying our alliances in the global war against terrorism.
Trump has only one thing going for him: The fact that the bombings and shootings will continue, and each one presents an opening for a cynical opportunist to gin up more fear, more hatred, more isolationism.
But we can't run from this problem, and we can't fix it by ourselves. World War III is being waged right now, in the world's back alleys and shadows, in our public spaces and on our public transport. We need more cybersleuths and more on-the-ground intelligence operatives. We need smart planning and solid analysis, and focused and coordinated military and police operations. We do not need knee-jerk impulses from an uninformed jerk.
Interestingly, we are hosting one of my wife's French relatives this month. She's 19, learning a little about the U.S., and practicing her English. Her parents are a bit worried about her being over here.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...