It’s hard to place this word in the confines of the English language. Some call it a curse, others call it a blessing. It has been used not only to describe people, but their very essence on the world around them. It encompasses our victories, our failures and our memories. Over the years, there have been many historic events that have now become the defining points of humanity, from the eradication of slavery to Apartheid to the putting a man on the moon. Throughout history however, there has always been something that has remained constant, we have been progressive.
That is, until now.
Exhibit A: Paris, January the 7th, 2015
This is what I believe the be the causative agent of the disruptive downfall. Paris, along with France and the rest of the world would be left in pieces as Islamic extremists shot and killed 12 people while injuring 11 others after a shootout at the office of the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo. It would remain one of the most shocking events to take place and was an ominous opening to a year filled with similar events. Across the globe, debates were sparked as the world was divided in 2. The question remained, did the expression of free will, opinion and ideology over rule our moral principle of respecting each others choices & decisions? Was the freedom of expression being violated or were moral boundaries being crossed?
Unfortunately, this didn’t change the fact that the day was signed off with blood and bullets. It reached a point where even the death of the assassins could not fill the void that lurked in the hearts of the French, and of those around the Earth. The damage was irreversible.
The use of images, text & videos can never, ever, justify retaliation of violence
Exhibit B: Paris, November the 13th & 14th, 2015
Paris would be rocked yet again, when in the early hours of November the 14th, suicide bombers took to the streets of the capital clothed with bombs and grenades. The beginning of what would be the darkest night in French history occurred outside France’s iconic Stade de France followed by many shootouts at restaurants and cafes around the city before taking hostage many concertgoers at an Eagles of Death Metal concert. It would be night filled with bullets, screams and blood. When the sun rose on the 14th, the streets of Paris were silent as the corpses of 137 people lay motionless on the brick clad sidewalks and paved streets. It would be the deadliest attack in European history in a decade (deadlier being the Madrid bombings of 2004).
It was already a tumultuous year to begin with for the French, with 2015 opening with the Charlie Hebdo shootings. Now, France would close the year with another tragic, hate-filled incident that left multitudes of people dead and injured while only spreading xenophobia, racism and worsening religious tension. A long ways away from what Paris is known for, love.
Exhibit C: Brussels, March the 22nd, 2016
Europe would be left in shock as the city of Brussels underwent a major security crisis. 3 suicide bombers attacked the airport (2) and the station (1) in a lethal sequence of events that lead to the deaths of 32 civilians along with the 3 perpetrators of the crime. Like the previous Paris attacks, ISIL claimed responsibility for the bombings. By now, Europe had realized that this was no longer an uncoordinated string of random attacks. These were planned, and Europe was succumbing to this strategy. Such micromanaging was last seen majorly in the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Europe had now entered a crisis.
The problem was, while clearly planned, these events were very difficult if not impossible to predict. Due to their history, countries like Spain and France have a large indigenous Islamic population. This means that intrusive and restrictive laws like France’s anti-veil law has a much greater response compared to if the law was established in a country with a smaller Muslim population. European countries are trying to impose western ideals on a ever-so diverse population. This ‘westernization’ policies are what I believe to be one of the key factors in causing these attacks.
Exhibit D: The Brexit, June the 23rd, 2016
A day that would go down in history of international relations, the United Kingdom voted 51% to leave the European Union, an organization long thought to have been an exception in the long list of broken groups. It brought into question the future existence and unity of the European Union. Politicians on both sides of the English Channel scrambled through parliament as preparations for the United Kingdom’s imminent departure began.
What must be noted is that this event, while having major significance on its own, is overshadowed by its impact around the globe and what it symbolized. It showed the increasing lack of unity and cohesion among nations. This would later come when the United States decided to leave the Paris Climate Deal, an agreement that was lauded for its seemingly united international acceptance.
Exhibit E: Istanbul, June the 28th, 2016
2016 would see Europe face one of its deadliest attacks when terrorists bombed Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. While there were 45 casualties, the reason this attack was a hallmark event in European geopolitics is that it showed Europe that Islamic extremists attacks were not limited to the ‘non-Muslim nations’. Turkey, a majority Sunni-Muslim nation, a nation long considered to be a safe haven during times like these had just suffered a fatal bombing.
It broke the stereotype that had been lurking in mainland Europe. The belief that ‘the Islamic nations are responsible’ and ‘they are obviously going to be safe’. It showed the world that this wasn’t a war against Islam. It was a war against extremism.
Exhibit F: Manchester, May the 22nd, 2017
A highly publicized event in 2017, a suicide bomber killed 22 people including himself after a concert hosted by American singer Ariana Grande. The event left people in shock, including Ariana Grande, who proceeded to take a short hiatus from her Dangerous Woman Tour for which she was performing in Manchester. This had only further solidified the fact that Europe was a target for extremists groups such as ISIL. This was later followed by a series of attacks in London in June, which co-incidentally happened to be on the day before Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert which was meant to raise funds for the victims and was set to star many famous singers and performers.
Religious skirmishes and tension were at an all time high.
Exhibit G: Charlottesville, August the 12th and 13th, 2017
It was a weekend that would leave a long lasting scar on the American people. During the weekend, white supremacists, armed with tiki torches, took to the streets of Charlottesville in a protest that promoted white superiority. They ended up clashing with counter protesters which ended in the death of Heather Heyer, a counter protester.
This was a significant moment in American history as it brought to light a problem that now days seems almost ancient. That is, racism. One would never have even imagined that in 2017, there would be a protest supporting white supremacy and promote Nazi Germany era ideologies. This event is, in essence, an act of xenophobia, racism and a digression in American culture, society and way of thinking. The situation was only exaggerated by President Trump’s statement on the protest, criticizing both sides. He equated the side promoting discriminatory ideals and racist ideologies with the side supporting equality for all, non-violence and love. This was almost like a ‘go ahead’ sign to groups such as the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and was as if he supported their beliefs. A man who has had no qualms calling out anyone and everyone, from all Muslims to threatening Kim Jong-Un and demanding Mexico to build a wall across their shared border said that “both sides” were responsible, seemingly afraid to call out what in reality is the target demographic that Trump’s ideals satisfy.
Exhibit H: Barcelona, August the 17th, 2017
Just days after the gruesome events of Charlottesville, yet another act of hate would end with dead bodies. In Barcelona, a man driving a white van rammed onto pedestrians of the popular La Rambla area, killing 131 people. The city was under a crisis for 36 hours before the suspects were either killed or arrested. This was unfortunately not before another attack to place in the city of Cambrils, killing 6 people.
Within hours of the attack, #StayStrongBarcelona starting trending strongly on all social media platforms. People used the internet to help the victims, opening up their homes for them. Sadly, this did little to heal the deep wound that Barcelona, Spain and the world endured.
This is the epitome of disruption. Never before have such events come with such frequency, force and violence. Its all crashing down. Our respect for one another, our love for each other and our so called ‘society’. The world seems to be coming to an end.