I cannot imagine what the family members felt on 9/11, even though my own brother was in Manhattan when the Twin Towers came down. He emailed to tell us he was safe. I have no idea what the bereaved in Paris felt when the Bataclan was assaulted, even though I had French friends who sent me Facebook messages to say “nous sommes ‘ok’” I know no one who lost a son, mother or lover in the Orlando shooting, and I can only understand at the most superficial level what the victims of the Nice and Charlie Hebdo attacks felt. Unlike one local television station that always struggles in a rather artificial way to find the “local angle,” I do not have a personal connection to these cataclysmic displays of hatred across the globe.
But Manchester was different. Manchester was, in some ways, like Newtown. Because children raise the stakes and deepen the horror. When a child is targeted in the most deliberate way, even the stranger at the other end of the world feels the knife plunging into her gut and twisting, turning, slicing and shredding away at the humanity. A child is not supposed to attract hatred or deliberate evil. We know that not every child grows up with joy and love, and I can tell you stories of people I know, or knew, who suffered mightily in their childhoods.
But the concept of “child,” the idea of innocence and the bubble-lightness of summer days and nursery songs and first kisses and hugs as strong as titanium and sweet as clover honey leaves no place for orchestrated carnage. When it happens, as it did in Newtown, the world spins off its axis for a while.
Perhaps Newtown isn’t the best analogy, because the source of the horror that December day was one boy with a diseased mind and no overriding political agenda. His hate was something from which we recoil, but was still, in its fury, familiar. Guns, mental illness, bad parenting — all of the ingredients for mayhem were there and were things we despised, but they didn’t surprise.
Islamic terror is something different, even though now we are getting used to it as the scars build up on our battered bodies. Each attack both deadens us to the singularity of the evil and makes us more determined to defeat it. But of course, we don’t, because we fall back into the stupid platitudes pronounced in sterilized language because we don’t want to offend, you know, “the good ones.”
This attack in Manchester was more like the Beslan massacre in 2004, when Chechen rebels invaded a school in the Northern Caucasus and ended up murdering 186 children when the siege was over. They went for the school because it was a place where children studied, played and innocently trusted that the adults would keep them safe until they could go home to their parents. These evil, evil men and women knew that only the most arid heart was impervious to the suffering of a child, and they sent their message in that innocent blood.
The suicide bomber in Manchester targeted the Ariana Grande concert because he knew this was a place where young girls and their compliant mothers and fathers would be, gathered to listen to a youngish star who represented the shiny things they flock to, like moths to a musical flame. It was not a random choice, this concert. It was a meeting place for ‘tweens, teens and those just starting to become what they had a right to become: adults.
I posted something on Facebook, used some expletives and called this Islamic Terror, and no one faulted me for my four-letter words but some scolded me for calling this “Islamic.”
But children were targeted — girls and boys — and I’m done with the sterile platitudes. When Adam Lanza shattered Christmas for the nation in 2012, I didn’t show sympathy for the mentally deranged or the gun lobbyists.
And so today, I have no time for those who tell me not to say “Islamic.”
Children change the paradigm. It’s time, dammit, to tell the truth. It wasn’t a radical Christian, enraged Buddhist, fanatical Jew or maniacal Sikh who blasted himself to hell and sent children to heaven.
This time, like the last time, and the time before, it was a nihilistic self-identified Muslim who did the deed.
Refusing to say it is another assault on the dead.
Christine Flowers, an immigration lawyer, can be heard from 8 to 11 p.m. Sundays on WPHT-AM (1210).
On Twitter: @flowerlady61