||Gnat’s bouncing on the bed with a rabbit, which is really a kangaroo, while the radio restates the death toll: 150 dead, and an unimaginable number of wounded. I dread the day when she starts to listen to the radio, and understand; I wonder what she will think about the world outside Jasperwood. Right now she knows that we live in Minneapolis, in Minnesota, on the Earth. It’s a pretty good place. It has seasons and it has ice cream and it has spring, soon, and it’s where her room is. But at some point kids realize that when daddy said there weren’t any monsters, daddy was telling a lie.
I thought at first it must be Al Qaeda, given the significance of Spain to these horrid farkwits; the whole “tragedy of Andalusia” thing figures large in their menu of grievances. You think: that was half a millennia ago. Move on. But it’s not as if they are stuck in past history. There is no such thing as history for these people. There is simply a condition that must be changed. The world must submit. The aberration of the Reconquista must be reversed. These are obvious truths. They will come to pass. If you oppose these truths, you oppose God. Look at this great hall, full of the proud and the profane, intent on their wordly lives; if only they knew their sins, they would clamor to take your place and push the button themselves.
I’m somewhat annoyed by the assertion that this act was “sophisticated,” and hence the work of those brilliant stratgerists of Al Qaeda. My definition of sophistication is somewhat different: it’s an unmanned drone flying over Pakistan, piloted by a guy in Florida, dropping a laser-guided bomb into the passenger cab of a truck full of Taliban. That’s sophistication. Synchronizing watches on detenators is not exactly all that tough. I’ll tell you what’s difficult: a dozen nervous sweating Swedes pulling off 13 simultaneous detonations in Saudi Arabia, where they might stick out. Spain of course is most Spanish; hence the name. But I assume there are enough immigrants living in Madrid, or native-born people of Arab origin, so that a guy walking through a train station with a backpack is about as unusual as a tourist in a loud shirt peering at a map.
Assuming that it was al-Qaeda, of course. The UN seems to have decided otherwise, passing a resolution condemning the ETA. If it was the ETA, well, I have the estimated time of arrival for the success of their cause: three hours after never. I can’t say “sure doesn’t sound like the ETA,” because as I keep reminding myself: what the hell do I know? I read a lot today, and learned what characterized their earlier attacks; given that info, yes, it seems unlikely it was them. Then we have the claim of credit. Then there’s the van with the incrimating items. Then there’s the Ha’aretz newsflash I just read – someone said there was a suicide bomber on one of the trains.
There’s a small padded room in my mind where I imagine the theories of the daft: OMG Bushitler did this, it’s part of a campaign to make us “afraid,” it’ll only get worse. That’s one take, from the foil-chapeau brigade, a decided minority. Then there’s the schadenfreuders: well, Spain supported the war in Iraq. Payback’s a bitch, eh? As if there was some sort of epiphany in the terrorist community: whoa, Spain is assisting the Crusaders now. I know it’s going out on a limb, but I propose adding Spain to the list of Western Christian polyglot democracies to destroy. All in favor, say aye. Of course one can say that the jihadists attacked Spain for its role, but to suggest that Spain earned this atrocity means that the two causes are morally indistinguishable.
To some, they are. To some, the act of "resistance" has such a romantic pull they cannot possibly renounce the use of flamboyant violence - until they find themselves in a train station on an average weekday morning, ears ringing, eyes clouded, looking down at their shirt, wondering why it's so red all of a sudden.
When I heard the Spanish PM’s address to his nation, I was struck by a repeated mention of “The Constitution.” Spain has one. So does Iraq. Spain was a fascist nation. So was Iraq.
The appeal to a document is more than a nod to flowery words on expensive paper; it’s an appeal to a shared idea, a concept of justice that resides in natural law, a notion of civil society that derives its legitimacy from the assent of the governed, not the dictates of generals. Azanar said:
To defend these causes the Government asks Spaniards to demonstrate tomorrow in the streets of Spain. Under the slogan "With the victims, with the Constitution, for the defeat of terrorism" demonstrations have been called in all Spaniard cities tomorrow Friday at seven in the evening. I wish those demonstrations to be as overwhelming as the pain we feel today, as civic as our patriotism that makes us feel solidarity with all those that suffer the consequences of terrorism's actions.
Better in the original Spanish, I’m sure. You get the point. It makes me admire the Spanish more than ever, I’ll tell you that: after 9/11 the media – the American overclass – was all about pain and sympathy and vigils and candles; vengeance and retribution were not invited. Stand up and strike back was not a theme of those awful hours after 9/11. Partly because we didn't know who to hit. Partly because we realized eventually that we would be striking back, hard, soon. The national character best expressed itself by a brief period of introspective mourning, not brutish demands to level half the planet. Bush did not call for massive demonstrations to approve his desire to defeat terrorism. In American terms, that would have been unseemly. Grief first. Then war.
Spain doesn’t have the luxury of 200 years of Constitutional rule. Young adults sitting around the dinner table look at parents who grew up under Franco; they might value freedom more than we do. We cannot possibly imagine losing it. They have heard stories of how quickly it can be lost.
But what do I know? I know nothing. It’s ten o’clock on a cold night in a warm house in a nice town in the middle of North America. Could be ETA. Could be AQ. Could be, as some have said, that this was the opening of the the Islamacist’s front in Europe.
But it's all a front. If there’s a man sitting on a park bench reading about Buddhism: it’s a front. If there’s a woman at the mall with her head uncovered, it’s a front. If there’s a little girl in a school learning about the periodic table, it’s a front. If there’s two women in a park holding hands and sneaking a smooch, it’s a front. If there’s a guy in a room posting to his website his arguments for atheism, it’s a front. If you’re reading your child a story whose hero is a clever pig, you’re living on the edge of the front. If the appointed hour comes and the call to prayer doesn’t drift from the spiky towers, it’s a front.
So what do I hope I'll tell my child? Simple. It's over. We won.