Former U.S. president Franklin D Roosevelt once said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
He was talking about the Second World War. But his words are just as appropriate today in light of the latest international acts of terrorism, first in Lebanon last Thursday when 43 civilians were killed in downtown Beirut in two bombings, and in Paris on Friday, when 129 civilians were killed in a series of bombings and shootings at a soccer stadium, three bars and a concert hall that left another nearly 400 injured, some critically.
While the Beirut bombings garnered little international attention—likely because we in the West (so wrongly) expect “that type of thing” to happen there—the Paris attacks hit a nerve akin to the reaction after the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre towers and Washington’s Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 and on London’s transit system on July 7, 2005.
The U.S. attacks changed forever many aspects of life as we knew it in the West, not the least of which is how we travel and security levels in our everyday lives for everything from sports events to rock concerts.
What happened in Paris was another example of terrorists targeting everyday people doing everyday things in a bid to instill fear.
And it likely worked—for some.
Within a few days of the carnage in the French capital, I was asked if it would change my feelings about Canada’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees into this country this year.
It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. We, Canadians, should do it because it’s the right thing to do. After all, those most directly affected by terrorism, after the victims who die and are injured in such senseless and barbaric acts of violence, are the refugees forced to flee their homes, cities towns and countries because of what’s happening there.
But the fact the question was asked says something about the impact a terrorist attack thousands of miles from Kelowna has had even here.
While the fear of refugees is unfounded—terrorists could be among any group of immigrants to this country—even those from so-called “friendly” Western countries—the fact some feel the need to ask the question is telling.
Canada should be able to do the right humanitarian thing and take refugees who need a safe home, and protect its residents at the same time. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
As for the murders in Beirut and Paris—for that’s what they were, murders—they should be condemned without hesitation in the strongest possible terms. And so should any other acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.
Targets like New York, London and Paris may be chosen for the seeds of fear they undoubtedly sow in the hearts of those of us not used to living with war.
But to give into that fear, and to give up our humanity in the process, would be to capitulate to those who want us to live in fear.
And that, in itself, would be a disservice to all those who died in New York, London, Paris, Beirut and all the other cities where terrorists strike.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Kelowna Capital News.