Daily life with neither fear nor apology

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris will see New York on a higher security alert than usual. There will be more armed soldiers and more heavily armed police in some of our transit centers and crowded tourist areas.

New Yorkers this week will go to work as they normally do. The buses will be too slow and the trains too crowded. New Yorkers will continue to secretly and openly hate one another as is our birthright.

But what we won’t do is let savage lunatics keep us from doing what we need to do. We’d love to stay home and watch the news while eating cheese in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in France, but we can’t afford the time off from work.

And, to borrow an over-used phrase, if we deviate from our miserable daily routines, the terrorists have won. Let’s observe a moment of silence for the victims of these horrors, but don’t dare be silenced by fear. Don’t let the fear of terrorism affect how you live your life and don’t let the fear of being labeled or maligned stop you from speaking your mind.

New Yorkers will be divided on what the Paris attacks say about Islam and the Muslim world at large. My social media news feed is filled with people wanting to bomb all Muslims back to the stone age (some are already there!) and people trying to shame us for caring more about Paris than Beirut. All of this is nonsense. New Yorkers care more about Paris because Paris is more like New York and it resonates when people more like ourselves are harmed. That’s not xenophobia, that’s human nature.

The five boroughs are home to as many as 1 million Muslims and most of them are peaceful people we interact with on a daily basis without incident. It’s Muslims who are the biggest victims of Islamic fundamentalists and Muslims who are doing the most to take the fight to these extremists. And it’s also realistic Muslims who will admit that there’s a real problem with Islam today. It’s the religion that has most dialed up the crazy factor something terrible and the Islamic Uma has been home to an ideological war for decades with too many moderates sympathizing with the other side.

New Yorkers are a generally liberal lot and the usual suspects have expressed more angst about possible backlashes against Muslims than about how we go about preventing another terrorist attack. We’re a divided city just as we are a divided country, but after all the hand-wringing and shouting, we’ll still be a buzzing metropolis. We’ve seen terrorism at its worst and we’re still here.

New Yorkers will pause to honor the victims of terror and then keep going to work and coming home every night. We’ve been down this road before. There’s too much life to live here. We can’t afford the fear.

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