Last night’s attacks in Paris were sickening. An affront to all that we consider human and decent. That people who are out on a Friday evening to see friends for a drink but will never return is a fate no family should have to put through. We cannot stand for bloodshed on our streets, not here, not Paris, not anywhere. There are debates to be had over droning, the disgusting wars we wage across the world that bring just as much pain as was experienced in Paris. But they will not be had in these words.
For what shines through all the pain and chaos is the irrevocable human spirit. “Porte Ouverte” is currently flying around Twitter; translating to “open door”. Parisians, San Franciscans, Londoners and many more are opening their homes to strangers stranded due to the atrocities. Empathy transcends their actions, giving a safe haven to those who are suffering most. Survivors of the horror in the Bataclan theatre have been welcomed in to homes with hot meals, showers and clean beds.
The attacks proved the depths that human cruelty can reach. The response proves that ISIS will never win. There are those who will point to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and those of last night as proof that humans are cruel, merciless and aggressive. But the Parisians prove this is different.
It is frustrating that it takes a crisis of this magnitude to reveal such a spirit. But it is there and we must harness it. Our long term response needs to build upon our short term one. Compassion, understanding and community are at the heart of all of this. A politics of hatred, of impulse and chauvinistic expressionism won’t deal with the security issues that face our society. Our policy is currently fighting terror with terror. Democracy dropped from the air, reigning down on civilians who never asked to be brought into this mess.
We must preach toleration and respect, cross-cultural understanding and collaboration. Islamophobia and xenophobia cannot infiltrate into our collected consciousness. Post 9/11 and 7/7 we have treated Muslims as a threat; we turn up our noses, ‘like’ the Britain First Facebook page and bemoan Islamic values degrading our own culture. Whilst we open our doors for others in a time of crisis, we have failed to open our hearts and minds to those of us that are different in society in more normal times.
Many may use recent events as a tool to divide us, to convince us that immigration is a threat, and that we must fear those who don’t conform to British culture.
But this won’t solve any of the problems we face. It will merely further antagonise people to join extremist groups like ISIS to overturn the status quo. And indeed we do need to change, but violence and death are not the tools we have to wield. We must don the shield of compassion and carry the sword of toleration. The aftermath of last night’s attacks are a stunning display of the true human spirit. Open doors must become open hearts and open minds.
As we pause today to consider the lives that were lost on Friday night. Remember to think of the response, showing that humans are capable of good. If violence and terror seep into our society and fear and hatred slip into our mind; then ISIS will have won. Summon the spirit of ‘Porte Ouverte’ and remember; hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love.