Je suis navré

eifelOver the last 24 hours, many of my Facebook friends changed their profile pictures with a backdrop of the French flag.

I did not.

I have no criticism for my friends who did this, I can only explain why I did not.

What happened in Paris last night was an outrage. Those were cowardly acts perpetrated by cowardly people. Of course, we should stand in solidarity with our fellow men, women and children in Paris. We want to show that we are united.  There is nothing wrong with that.

We are saddened. We are outraged. And yes, we are afraid that this form of terror will soon land again on own shores.

Paris was not the first attack coordinated by ISIS. The loose-knit terror organization has struck other nations, albeit not members of Western Civilization.

I did not change my Facebook profile when ISIS beheaded journalists. I did not change my Facebook profile when ISIS attacked a hotel in Tunisia. I did not change my Facebook profile when ISIS attacked a French Gas plant or when they attacked and killed people in Kobane or Hasakah in Syria; or in Libya or Egypt.

I was a newspaper editor when the 9-11 attacks on the United States took place. Shortly after those attacks, my publisher and I had a lengthy conversation about whether to place an American flag symbol on the top of the front page. Another local paper had made that move, but we decided not to. It was a difficult decision, but I think we both realized that we were dealing with raw emotion, rather than sound logic.

For example, how long would the flag symbol appear on the front page? Would it be like a Christmas tree, which should be taken down after six weeks? Were we suddenly becoming patriotic because we were attacked? Why didn’t we have the flag on the front page on September 10, 2001?

To us, it seemed like being exploitative in the days following a horrific attack on our nation.

As could have been predicted, that other newspaper stopped with printing the flag on their front page long before the end of the year.

Social media is different, however. I see nothing wrong with wanting to show solidarity. I see nothing wrong with wanting to affirm our common connection to the human experience, including its shock, grief and outrage.

I just fear that we are dealing with something so much larger than what we can comprehend; a force of evil that we cannot imagine.

Some say the United States is unable or unwilling to face this latest form of human terror. Some say we are complacent, self-absorbed and don’t have the will to fight any enemy like ISIS. Some even criticize western leaders like President Obama for being “weak” on terrorism.

To those people, I say you are wrong. The same things were said about America and her president on December 6, 1941. We proved the world wrong, if only reluctantly and waiting until we were attacked.

People have criticized Generation X, yet Armed Forces recruiting stations were filled in the days after Sept. 11, 2001.

America has what it takes to confront ISIS, but this will need to be much more than a social media campaign of altered Facebook profile pictures. This will need to be a worldwide effort, and it will require both resources and tremendous sacrifice.

I am not a foreign policy expert, and more than likely, neither are you. I do not know how to bring the world together on this issue, but I do know that it will require much more than symbolic gestures.

We stand with Paris. But we must also stand with Berlin, Tunisia, Prague, Beirut and people of every stripe across the globe, not just the ones who look like us.





2 thoughts on “Je suis navré

  1. I said a prayer for all those attacks . Changing my face book profile doesn’t change the fact that we need to pray for all who have suffered in this world. So I will keep my profile the way it is. Maybe doing this will make others think about how important all lives matter.


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