It was a sobering note on a friday evening to learn of the attacks in Paris. Closely following the likely bombing of the Russian jet coming out of Egypt, it seems this is a pattern.
At a time like this, Europeans are going to hear a lot of calls to “be strong”, “respond firmly”, and so forth. While in one sense this is obvious, it is also really important, CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT, for officials and media figures to make a special point of denouncing elements of religious and racial prejudice in their responses. The temptation will be great to score PR points by one-upping one another on shows of patriotism, and this easily crosses the line into state-sanctioned or society-sanctioned hate speech and belligerence. The pro-war parts of the U.S. media set a noteworthy counterexample of what not to do in the weeks and months after 9.11, and, years later as the chain of cause and effect unfolded, some innocent Parisians have paid the price. To buy into the story of a “grand civilizational struggle”, as many are tempted to do, would add fuel to the fire. Whatever activity rightly comes out of this ought to be motivated by restoring an inclusive peace, rather than vanquishing enemies identified on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Although this also seems really obvious when you write it down, in reality it is a fine line. I really urge everyone to take the extra time and patience to give this fine line the attention it needs.
As others have pointed out, the proper response would be something like the way the UK dealt with the bombings coming out of Northern Ireland.
My heart goes out to all the innocent victims of attacks in Paris, and everywhere.