Imagine All the People
Paying tribute at the Bataclan/Getty Images
The devastation in Paris left many of us speechless, often hopeless. Amidst the confounded "stillness of the news," those taxed with making sense of it revisit what after 14 years we sorrowfully know doesn't work - in essence, the "whack-a-mole" wars of revenge we persist in undertaking. "Flexing and posturing and empty venting will not cure the deep sickness in the human spirit that leads people to slaughter the innocent," writes Charles Pierce, nor will "scapegoating the powerless and detaining the innocent. There is no real point in focusing a response on the people whose religion makes us nervous," a response "as empty as a bell rung at the bottom of a well."
He goes on, "A 242-ship Navy will not stop one motivated murderous fanatic from emptying the clip of an AK-47 into the windows of a crowded restaurant. The F-35 fighter plane will not stop a group of motivated murderous fanatics from detonating bombs at a soccer match. A missile-defense shield in Poland will not stop a platoon of motivated murderous fanatics from opening up in a jammed concert hall, or taking hostages, or taking themselves out with suicide belts when the police break down the doors. American soldiers dying in the sands of Syria or Iraq will not stop the events (because they will be dying) against only the most obvious physical manifestation of a deeper complex of ancient causes and ancient effects made worse by the reach of the modern technology of bloodshed and murder."
Instead, he argues, "It is long past time for the oligarchies of the Gulf states to stop paying protection to the men in the suicide belts," to stop arming, funding and otherwise turning a blind profit-driven eye to "those who buy their safety with the blood of innocents far away....It's time to be pitiless against the bankers and against the people who invest in murder to assure their own survival in power...(It's time for) an attack on how you conduct your business as sovereign states in a world full of sovereign states....You are no longer trusted allies."
Amidst the chaos on the ground, meanwhile, there were small, saving, often musical notes of grace. The crowd of thousands surging out of Stade de France, the beleaguered soccer stadium, broke into a moving defiant rendition of the ever-powerful La Marseillaise. And hearing the Paris news in Germany, pianist Davide Martello drove 400 miles through the night to Paris, hitched his piano to his bike, pedaled over to the Bataclan theater where so many had died, and played Lennon's "Imagine" to the still-stunned crowd. "Imagine there's no countries / It isn't hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace." Martello, who also brought his piano to play at the 2013 protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park, said he felt compelled to go to Paris: "I can’t bring people back but I can inspire them with music, and when people are inspired they can do anything." So. Maybe there's hope. May there be hope.