As in the aftermath of all terrorist attacks, there are many types of response on social media.
There’s the general sympathy, the “Je Suis Charlie” or “Pray for France” types. So far, so inoffensive.
There’s the voyeuristic thrill with which some spread images, sounds and words of blood, shooting, explosions.
Then there’s those who use the event as a prop to support their pre-conceived view of the World or to bang their favourite drum. So, even before the killing ended, I’ve seen the blame shamelessly put on immigration, Islam, Islamophobia, French involvement in Syria, French tolerance, French intolerance, the “Zionist-controlled media”, the liberal media etc etc.
As usual, I cast no stones. I have changed my Facebook profile to a French flag, tweeted sympathy and, by engaging in arguments with those who have used the tragedy to push their own prejudices, I have used it to push mine.
But that is just my external response. It’s more automatic than anything. It doesn’t involve any thought process – it’s business as usual.
And the 129 or so brutally killed in cold blood in Paris deserve more than that.
I lay awake last night and, rather than tweet #PrayforParis I decided to speak to G-d.
As soon as I began, though, I ran into difficulty. I simply couldn’t verbalise my thoughts. It seemed too flippant simply to ask Him for “peace”, and too arrogant to ask Him to perform a particular act, such as bringing an end to such heinous acts.
I started to say that perhaps these dark times might be a good time for the age of miracles to return, for G-d to show his face and to give us an unmistakable sign that He thoroughly disapproves of those who kill in His name.
Then I realised that He may have sent dozens of such signs already. But we, in our arrogance (and in the climate of aggressive secularism predominant in Western Europe which sees any sign of religious zeal as a symptom of madness), we have simply failed to see them as such.
Let’s face it, if a prophet appeared today, he (or she) would be dismissed as a crackpot and if G-d were to inflict the 10 plagues on a nation today, the response would be a DEC disaster appeal on the TV, charity singles and expressions of sympathy from World leaders rather than shocked introspection or consideration of a moral lesson.
(And no, I am not suggesting that any particular world event was a punishment from G-d. I wouldn’t be so arrogant to think I know G-d’s will. It’s a pity this is a humility so lacking in the ISIS lunatics who carried out yesterday’s attacks).
As I pointed out in “On prejudice“, there is, and can never be (at least not since the Tower of Babel), a commonly accepted interpretation of an event, no matter how extraordinary.
For example, I look at the creation of the State of Israel, so soon after the horrors inflicted on European Jewry in the Shoah; its survival in the face of overwhelming numbers (and unlimited resources) who have wished to destroy it since day one; and its development into an island of democracy, liberal tolerance, leading the world in science, medicine, the arts, all despite having to fight endlessly.
I look at all that and believe that is nothing short of miraculous. Yet the World does not agree with me. Much of the World sees Israel’s very existence as demonic, not miraculous. And, of course, many don’t consider it relevant to their lives at all.
In any event, if you believe in G-d, you believe He is omnipotent and omniscient. He knows what pain and misery people, not just in Paris, but all around the World, suffer because of the sort of hatred and psychosis that inspires the men who kill, torture and maim and hide behind a cause, be it political, religious, theological or nationalist.
And only He knows when such acts will cease (if indeed they ever will) and what will bring them to an end. Who am I to make suggestions as if I were writing a letter of complaint to my local Council about the state of the roads?
Perhaps, in the long run of history, those killings in Paris were a necessary pre-requisite for some future situation that brings humanity much joy. I simply don’t know.
So an honest introspection left me simply shrugging my shoulders and hoping that He knows what He is doing.
Speak soon (hopefully in happier circumstances)