Let’s ignore the fringe elements and sad little people crying out for attention for just one moment. Bloggers, pundits, politicians, just plain folk. Everybody sensible and decent agrees on the basics.
That the people who put those bombs in London are bastards. That they should be caught and punished.
That there is no excuse or justification for what they have done.
That by placing those bombs they have set themselves against the rights of free people everywhere, and in doing so, are against freedom itself. That they may hold other beliefs and ideologies in mind as they kill innocent people does not cancel out the fact that they stand against the rights of free people to go about their daily business as free people will.
That the ideologies, creeds, institutions, organizations or leaders which methodically justify, plan and direct such actions are incompatible with a world dedicated to justice and freedom. That we are in a state of absolute conflict with such beliefs and with such organizations, a state of conflict which could reasonably be described as “war”, even if a war against ideas and non-state organizations is different in its nature than what “war” has previously meant to humanity.
That in such a conflict we should defend ourselves resolutely and where possible strike back meaningfully and effectively.
It is because many of us agree on this much that the debate on Iraq has been so intense. It is because so many of us agree on this much that those of us who oppose the Iraq war and much of the rest of the Bush Administration’s approach to the conflict are so frustrated and angry with persistent attempts by some conservatives to caricature their domestic critics.
The best thing I can offer is an analogy. If a strong man and a weak man fight, the weak man’s only hope is to be canny, to infuriate his opponent so thoroughly that the opponent starts swinging wildly and carelessly, leaving himself open to attack, worn out by the cumulative effect of many small jabs and blows. The strong man can only lose if he lets himself be baited and provoked.
And we are strong. Yes, because we have a strong and dedicated military. Yes, because we’re wealthy and have enormous resources. Our greatest strengths are less tangible. Our hopes, our freedoms, our alignment with the forward march of progress. We can afford to wait, to be patient, to not be lured into discarding our greatest strengths just to indulge our rage. I keep hearing this quote in my head, which despite its source (a computer game) strikes me as appropriate: “Endure, and in enduring, grow strong.” Fight with our military when it makes sense to fight, defend ourselves always. But the heart of the battle falls on all of us, in the ordinary circuits of our everyday lives. The struggle belongs to all of us. All of us just have to shoulder the burden, resolve ourselves to live well and live freely and always to be undeterred in our purposes by the killers.