Thursday, July 07, 2005

Because I lived in and loved living in London for six months in my twenties, I often feel more when a tragedy happens there than in New York which I've only been to as a tourist. I lived very close to Russell Square and crossed it often to go to a favorite pub. (Russell Square is where the double decker bus was blown up today.)

London is such a wonderful place and I have very fond memories of walking along the Thames, long converations in pubs, lazy days in art museums, and just having that ex-pat feeling with others from the US and elsewhere. London is also the most cosmopolitan city I know of. Certainly, this is partly an echo of the British Empire. But, no other city I've spent a lot of time in has as many people from different cultures interacting with one another. It was so common for me to see kids of different colors and languages playing soccer together. Or, to see people of different races holding hands while walking down the street. In other words, if London is a target then the target is a liberal lifestyle.

Sure, this might sound a little too Hitchensian for some. But, unlike Christopher, I do not see the West as faultless freedom fighters. In fact, I think this problem is exacerbated by extremists on both sides of the issue. Do I possibly have a little more in common with the Western interests? Yes. Do I think that fighting violence with violence is the solution though? No. Indeed, I think one of the solutions is exactly what was interrupted by these bombings. Aid and fair trade and an equitable set of possibilities for all the world's people is what I think will make a difference.

Which is not to say I think people only become al-Qaida recruits because of poverty and despair. It's not that simple. Some people believe in fundamentalism per se. But, poverty and despair make it a lot easier to coax recruits into an extremist ideology that targets an other as the source of that recruit's problems.

Of course, this is just a small bit of the problem. There are also the follies of our leaders, the dictatorial regimes in too many countries of the world (that we have and have not supported), our own fundamentalisms that offer a point to be countered, and other things I can't think of right now.

But, the bottom line is that violence is not the answer. It won't stop us and it won't stop them. I just hope that this will not derail the momentum to offer more aid to African nations. Because, that is part of the solution. It would be sad to see the terroists win this battle.

ADDENDUM: This dispatch from London over at Slate is worth a read.

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