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“This is the big story of our time, and it is an incredibly boring one. Let the boredom of this just sink into your bones: realize that for the rest of your life, you’re going to be reading and hearing about, and otherwise witnessing, hopefully not firsthand, the lunacy and attendant atrocities of jihadists.
Please pay attention to the recurrent shrieks of Allahu Akbar. This is the cat call from the Middle Ages, or from Middle Earth, that we will have to live with for the rest of our lives. So this fight against jihadism — this is a generational fight. This is something we are doing for our children, ultimately, and for our children’s children.
We have a war of ideas that we have to wage, and win, and unfortunately we have to wage it and win it with ourselves first. And again, this requires an admission that there is such a war of ideas to be waged and won.
We have grown so effete as a civilization as to imagine that we have no enemies — or if we do, that they are only of our own making… It is not mere wartime propaganda that we will one day look back on with embarrassment to call ISIS a death cult. To call them barbarians. To call them savages. To use dehumanizing language.
They are scarcely human in their aspirations. The world they want to build entails the destruction of everything we value, and are right to value. And by “we” I mean civilized humanity, including all the Muslims who are just as horrified…
We have a project that’s universal, that transcends culture; that unites everyone who loves art and science and reason generally, who wants to cure disease, who wants to raise each new generation to be more educated than the last. And this common project is under assault…
And unfortunately, most of us have to keep convincing ourselves that evil exists, that not all people want the same things, and that some people are wrong in how they want to live and the world they want to build. And if we can’t convince ourselves of this once and for all, well then we’ll have to wait to be convinced by further acts of savagery of the sort we just saw in Paris. Why wait?”
Comments from Sam Harris on the preface to his newly republished essay “Still Sleepwalking toward Armageddon”.
You’ll find more of Sam’s takes on these issues in his newest book, coauthored with Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance. I was lucky enough to meet Maajid two weeks ago in Washington and can enthusiastically recommend this quick, clarifying read. Watch Sam and Maajid talk about the roots of their conversation and the conclusions they’ve made in the following clip from The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:
The photograph was taken this weekend as mourners gathered at The Place de la République in Paris.
More for the Francophiles: