More police cars lined the front of Lincoln Center Plaza on Monday than I have seen anywhere else on an otherwise uneventful night in New York City, and the police officers were standing shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk. It was three days after the horrific attack on civilians in Paris by the ISIS group, according to their own admission. More than 130 people in the French capital, who were doing little more than enjoying the beginning of a weekend at restaurants, a concert hall and a soccer stadium, were killed by at least eight suicide jihadists, and that number could still double if those hospitalized should die. Most of the victims were gathered to hear a rock band from California known for its wit, but now with the unfortunate name of Eagles of Death Metal, and a hostage scene ensued after gunmen burst into the Bataclan performance hall and fired into the crowd. “Carnage,” posted one concertgoer on Facebook, according to The New York Times.
So it was a welcome sight for our little group to see the extensive police presence as we walked toward the entrance to the Metropolitan Opera House and our evening performance of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” The police were relaxed, and when we chatted with them, they told us that they were expecting a demonstration. They said that was what brought them. I asked several officers if they had ever been to an opera, and they laughed and said “no;” some offered that they would like to see one. One of our group asked if they were on overtime. They said that they were not, that they had just come on duty. We told them that regardless of the reason, we were glad to see them and hoped they would one day enjoy an opera.
The jihadists, through their despicable acts, have succeeded in alarming the world, even as messages have poured forth from all corners of the globe asserting solidarity with France. In one such instance, the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, under the baton of Placido Domingo, played the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, before the matinee this past Saturday. The words to the rousing song had been inserted into each program so the spectators could sing along, and they did with feeling. Other performances, sporting events and places where crowds gathered offered such support to France from all quarters throughout the weekend. And once Monday morning dawned, the French authorities were grimly examining the extent of the destruction: physical, emotional, psychological, and economic.
Those costs are not just for France, but are felt worldwide. Police and military presences have been increased everywhere crowds assemble to reassure citizens they are protected. Tourists are not so quick to roam the globe or even to get on airplanes. Families are afraid for their distant members. Performers are reluctant to perform for crowds. Parents and educators are deeply concerned about how to explain these events to children. And triggered by profound anger and fear, more death reigns down on militants in Syria and Iraq from governments pressed to retaliate, creating more militants who will be willing to die to avenge their brethren killed in those attacks. Killing begets more killing. The world remains a dangerous place, as I suppose it has always been. Mass murder of innocents has again become part of life on the planet, winning points for the causes of the
murderers. The more gruesome the deaths, the more attention paid, the more points.
What to do?
I liked what the French celebrity, Shy’m, was quoted by The Times as saying. “After much reflection, doubt and fear, but above all a powerful and profound need to respond, to respond to fear, I decided to go onstage.” (She has concerts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Paris.) “What has happened to France and humanity is unspeakable and unbearable, but it is out of the question to hole up and stay silent.”
If past is prologue, the intensity of this latest horror will recede, and people will, in time, go on with their normal lives—until the next time.