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Friday, July 1, 2016

Terrorism Around the World-- and Ragtime, the novel.

I loved E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime from the first grand, long paragraph sweeping us from fireworks and bunting in New Rochelle to Winslow Homer painting on the eastern seaboard to New York City and the opening night of Mamzelle Champagne and the murder of architect Stanford White and Emma Goldman shouting, "lashing her tongue" about the Negroes and Immigrants that the Mamas and Papas of the world denied existed. 

But ultimately, I hated Ragtime in all its many incarnations. Why? Because it both glorified and justified terrorism. I let my children listen to the album of the musical made from Doctorow's novel, but I point out, again and again, that Coalhouse Walker had many many choices about how to deal with his humiliation and the destruction of his brand new automobile. He did not have to become Cliven Bundy carried to extremes--blowing up firehouses and threatening to blow up part of Manhattan. He could have found another way. 

This week, we can go around the world and say, many times: these terrorists could easily find another way to achieve their goals, but they do not. And so, we come together to grieve, again, terror in Europe and the Middle East and Asia: 

In Istanbul, Turkey, that gorgeous and cosmopolitan city. 

In flourishing Dhaka, capitol city of Bangladesh, where people are still held hostage as I write. 

The village of Kiryat Arba, where a little girl was stabbed in her bedroom yesterday. 

And a family murdered today in a terrorist shooting outside Otniel. 

I am a huge believer in non-violent resistance. I understand that it only works if you have a) media attention b) you are fighting an enemy that views itself as civilized and c) the will to use non-violent protest rather than the desire to destroy, maim and kill, or to become a martyr. There are so many cases here where people are choosing terrorism when non-violence would actually accomplish something. So let us mourn those who were foully murdered. Let us call for non-violent methods of problem solving. Let us remove the tools--the governments that support these actions, the access to weapons, the access to internet recruitment--and let us join together to affirm that these values are not our values. 

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