I don’t have the words to express my sorrow at the Paris attacks. I’ve been out of words to talk about terrorist attacks for a long time. Watching Syria, a place many of my friends and acquaintances and even a few former students have roots, be torn between terrorist violence and state violence has left me without words. I lack the imagination to understand what happened in Paris or what living under the threat of bombing is like or any of the other myriads of tragedies. And so I cannot find the words.
But a lot of people have the words.
Many people have started writing, trying to make sense of it.
One thing people are saying is that it is too soon to talk politics. I get this. This is a time of grief. I certainly respect anyone who wants to remove themselves from the conversation and grieve. More, not everyone bringing up politics is doing it in good faith—I certainly mean to give them no aid and comfort.
But I think to make that our societal rule dishonors the people who die in political violence. There is a connection between French Colonialism, neo-Colonialism, and what happened in Paris. There is a connection between the politics and policies of France and the violence that happened there. Western policy for two centuries gave us IS and that did not end in Paris. There can be no pretending that political violence is somehow divorced from politics.
Again, if you don’t want to pretend but rather step away from that, you do not need my permission. This is not carte blanche to say whatever you want about Paris—speech about politics should be thoughtful and subject to scrutiny. It is just asking that we acknowledge that deaths by political violence are necessarily political.