I received this response from a friend in Edinburgh in response to my posting of Dave Cogwell’s thoughtful and well written piece, and wanted to share her thoughts as well, as they have deep relevance, I believe, for anyone who may be succumbing to the prevalent hysteria and paranoia that is sweeping, at the least, the media in the US in the wake of the Paris attack, and now the attack in Mali, and the wide-ranging man hunts and sweeps going on in Belgium and elsewhere. Her last sentence is all too reminiscent of Anne Frank, and one can only hope that the US is NOT going to replay our shameful pre-war history with the refugees of this current conflict.
I am prompted to reply to your carefully and thoughtfully written post if only to give a “European perspective” on recent events in Paris, Brussels and Mali, which I know have made headlines around the world. As I do not know exactly how much awareness of European events and news your blog followers continue to have once the main stories broke, or where in the world some of them are located, I hesitated to add a comment directly to the blog although that was my initial intention.
We have always had terrorism in some form or another here in Europe, and even in my own lifetime I remember the terrorist acts of European groups such as ETA, The Red Brigade and Baader-Meinhof amongst others. The IRA of course were (and indeed to a very small degree still are) our very own. Most of these names are now only to be found in history books, but in their time many innocent civilians were also killed or severely injured by being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
What is happening now is however very very different as it is ordinary citizens who are being attacked and murdered simply because their way of life is not approved of by ISIS/ISIL or any of their affiliated groups, or because their governments are making decisions which may not be the wishes of ordinary people. So where do we go from here?
For ourselves, we can only carry on with our everyday lives as we have done in the past. For my own generation it should be second nature to be aware of the places and the people around us, and to remove ourselves from any situation in which our instincts tell us that it simply “doesn’t feel right” however foolish we may feel at the time. For younger people it is not something they would even consider before, now they too would be wise to follow the same guidelines. It is what we have always done both at home and when we travel, but even with a degree of alertness we could still at any time and anywhere become direct or indirect victims of a sudden or unforseen attack.
We ourselves have tickets for some public events in the centre of Edinburgh over the Christmas and New Year period. Will we still go? Of course. We really have no other choice if we value our freedom outside of our home.
Yesterday, Saturday, we went into the city centre. It was the first weekend of the city Christmas lights being switched on, the seasonal markets open, the fairground rides and ice rinks open to the public for their enjoyment, and the shops were busy with Christmas shoppers. It was also the Festival of Diwali.
Celebrated principally by Hindus but also by Jains and Sikhs, the festival of Diwali spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.
It seemed especially appropriate yesterday that this event should continue as planned, particularly as the celebrations were being held for the very first time in the public area of the Ross Bandstand in Princes St Gardens, so that others of different religions or even of no religion could participate or simply enjoy the performances of singing and dancing followed by fireworks and lasers.
We noticed that many of the Hindu men and young boys were wearing kilts. Not only a kilt itself, but in many instances the full outfit. And many of the women and girls (those not performing in their “other ” ancestral national dress) were wearing tartan or checked skirts, trousers or jackets. Others had pinned on tartan sashes. We guessed what the answer would be, but still asked one of the men why so many were wearing tartan. His reply was this:
“We feel it is important to show that although our Hindu religion may be different from your own, we are not only Hindu but Scottish and proud to be Scottish. We want to show that our religion is only one of the religions practised in Scotland, and apart from our religion we are as Scottish and as integrated as anyone else living here”.
I was very touched by these words. So many people of different cultures and religions trying to show that we are all united in condemning evil.
The world is still (mostly) full of good people.