Some people are desperate to live. Some are desperate to die.
The former fight disease to see another day. I admire them.
The latter embrace a disease to make the day their last. I don’t understand them.
But what is more enigmatic is the notion that there are folks who not only want to end their life but use their suicidal act to end the lives of as many others as possible. Police recruits or shoppers at the local market. Innocent souls of all ages and nationalities and creeds.
It is a disease beyond comprehension. Or cure for that matter.
Not that we haven’t floated theories. It’s just that every argument has its counterargument. The assertion that the children of Muslim immigrants to Britain turn to radical Islam because of poor living conditions is met by the host of those raised in those dreadful mining villages and dreary mill towns who got on with life and became novelists and engineers. The elusive cure lies generations away deep in cultural and religious animosities.
In the absence of understanding and remedy, all we are able to do is to fight the symptoms of the disease; the rejection of life for midair or marketplace martyrdom. We can limit our freedom with tighter security. We can profile passengers for suspicious behaviour or background. No guarantees, of course.
Security personnel scrutinize behaviour all the time.
Years ago on a flight to Los Angeles I was singled out for special screening. I’m a white male who at the time was off to California to study for a doctoral degree in Christian ministry. Do I fit the profile of a terrorist threat?
On the other hand, the reason there wasn’t a bombing at Los Angeles International Airport around Christmas 1999 was because a trained, security person paid attention to a fidgeting, sweaty man trying to enter the U.S. from Canada. Ahmed Ressam had a suitcase bomb in the trunk of his car.
As for profiling background, we can pay closer attention to those more likely to pose a threat. But what are the indicators? Travel patterns? Ethnic or religious background? Critics cry racism. It’s not. It’s just narrowing the odds.
But no guarantees here either. Terrorists defy profiling. They are European, Asian, African, Hispanic and Middle Eastern, male and female, young and old.
Richard Reid, the goofy shoe bomber whose legacy is to have us all remove our shoes as part of pre-flight security screening, was British with a Jamaican father.
Besides, Muslim leaders in Britain have warned that using personal details to pinpoint terror suspects could alienate the nation’s 1.5 million Muslims and make matters worse with a backlash in which no one will co-operate with authorities.
Terror is not an enemy you fight militarily. Our American neighbours are bankrupting themselves in the “war on terror” launched on multiple fronts by their previous administration. You could argue that, in fact, the terrorists, the quick and the dead, have won. They have succeeded in making the West anxious and poor.
Once someone is filled with such hatred that they want to use the cessation of their life to end the lives as many others as possible, they will find a way and in the process attempt to make us all fearful, for whatever reason.
Fear is a disease whose symptoms you strive to manage. Jesus of Nazareth told people not to be afraid. Sage advice even if it’s a pipe dream.
In the meantime, we can only hope that the toxic desires of Islamic militants will be neutralized rather than fuelled, so that those who desperately wish to live to see as many days as possible, will be free to do so.
Rev. Bob Ripley, author and syndicated columnist, is the senior minister of Metropolitan United Church in London, Ontario.