Tragedies are tragedies. Ordinary people stand at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. Guns and bombs shatter their lives in an instant. There can be no justification for such violence. It is dangerously random and wicked. Whatever frustrations produce the assailants, nothing could possibly draw a straight line from those grievances and the misfortunes they produce. Each of these attacks comes with a list of names of the dead – casualty lists that multiply from one end of the planet to the other. Biographies of the dead will mount our Facebook pages and stand sentinel in newspapers. We will meet people we did not know and try to make sense of the lives they have lost. But none of this is adequate to the catastrophic losses faced by their families. When someone is ill, there is time to prepare for that person’s death. When these kinds of incidents take place, there is no preparation. They come in a flash and seize the living into the land of the dead. It is bewildering and purposeless.
States will fly flags at half-mast, and if the people are worthy, then social media profiles will carry these flags as well. Nationalism of the worst kind cloaks itself in these tragedies. All kinds of older plots and plans are hastened onto the table – to make quick use of the grief to push ahead with whatever schemes the power elites had in mind already. The war on Iraq, for instance, as a consequence of 9/11 is only the most spectacular instance of such perfidy. What Turkey’s government will do is to be seen. Already Turkey’s President – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – no champion of democracy – has called for this attack to be a “turning point for the united fight against terrorism.” There have been too many turning points and none of them have actually been able to turn anything against either terrorism or the roots of terrorism. Erdoğan’s government hastily put the brakes on social media, as they do after every such incident. It says a great deal that the language of freedom and liberty will be heard from a government that has cracked down on all manner of dissent – from opposition politicians, journalists, the judiciary and entire ethnic groups (such as the Kurds). Such events of violence provide the political manifestations of the worst kind of nationalism with the excuse to do insufferable things.