It is a sad fact that terrorism, in its many forms, is all around us. Wars, of whatever nature, are no longer confined to battlegrounds. They are being waged in our schools. Our cinemas. Our transport systems. Our workplaces. And now our beaches. How do we raise our children to ‘tolerate’ terrorism? How do we keep them safe? How do we explain it?
‘We won’t let terrorists stop us. We won’t be beaten.’
This is what we say. But this is only a sentiment. Because the people who lost their lives in yesterday’s Tunisia beach attack have been stopped. Beaten. It’s the cruellest, most senseless loss of life. It devastates everyone in its path. The people who die. Their children, families and friends. Their communities.
Terrorists find ways of taking it one step further. It’s not enough that we might never feel comfortable travelling on the tube. Or that we sometimes look at people on an airplane with suspicion or doubt. That we feel occasional apprehension if we work in a sky rise building in the middle of the business district.
Now, we will wonder when we step foot on a beach.
What’s the future for us? For our kids?
Is it really checking our parasols for weapons before we put on the factor 30?
The fear of ‘what if?’
I remember going to a Britney Spears concert at the O2 (please don’t judge me).
It was shortly after the 7/7 London bombings. There was a middle aged man sitting next to me. Alone. He didn’t have any children with him and, rightly or wrongly, I found myself feeling nervous. Distracted. ‘Why do you think he’s here?‘ I asked my sister. ‘Do you think he’s a terrorist?‘ Perhaps he was actually just a Britney Spears fan. Perhaps.
On a more recent occasion, we were in church. The Sunday school, which takes place at school, were 20 minutes late coming back. Probably, they had got caught up in a craft activity. Probably, they just lost track of time. But just possibly, something had happened. Some of the mums were nervous, you could tell. We said things to each other like, ‘It’s odd, they’re never late,‘ to cover up what we were really thinking. To reassure each other. Because what we were really thinking was, ‘What if a gunman has opened fire on our kids? What if. What if. What if.’
And this is, of course, what terrorism does. It spreads fear. Suspicion. Doubt. Where there should be happiness, enjoyment and trust.
We carry on doing the things we have to do. The things we love. We go to work. We get on the tube. We go to the cinema.
In that sense, terrorists won’t stop us, no.
But after every terrorist attack, we feel beaten.
What do we tell our children?
A fellow blogger, one of the Britons that died on the beach yesterday, was looking forward to her holiday.
She was like any of us. Talking about packing. And painting her nails. And why her hair wouldn’t behave. The naive person inside of me wants to scream, ‘How on earth does her death contribute anything to a war she was never part of?‘ But of course, we all know what it contributes. It forces us to sit up. And take notice of these extremists. Again.
So, when my children are old enough to hear the news and understand, what will I say? Will I tell them that some people kill to express their differences? Will I reassure them that these things happen far, far away from us? On battlegrounds?
Because they don’t, do they?
They happen all around us. In our schools. Our buses. And, now, our beaches.