Dangerous and angry times

Published 11:32 am Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The news on Thursday was disturbing and shocking: A Western Tidewater man had been charged in federal court with attempting to provide material support for ISIS, the extremist-Muslim group that has terrorized Europe, Africa and even the United States with coordinated and lone-wolf attacks during the past couple of years.
Even as the people of Berlin mourned the deaths of a dozen people in an attack by a Tunisian man who drove a truck into a crowded Christmas market, we here on the western side of the Atlantic were coming to grips with the possibility of terror unfolding once again on our own shores — and this time, according to an affidavit filed by federal investigators, potentially right here in Hampton Roads.
The man who was arrested on Wednesday after an investigation by the FBI and Suffolk police is, of course, innocent until proved guilty in a court of law. But the dangers of this new world in which we live are brought into stark relief by the charges levied against him and by the sight of blood in the streets of Germany.
There was a time when America’s greatest fear was of nuclear-tipped missiles falling on its cities. Today, we worry about airplanes piloted by jihadists, about holiday gatherings shattered by the sound of gunfire, about young men who have been turned into terrorists by the blue light of computer screens flickering in darkened houses and apartments.
When our greatest fears were of state actors loosing war upon the planet, we could at least take solace in the fact that our own government’s efforts to maintain peace bore some fruit. In this new world of asymmetrical warfare, however, there seems to be no such solace. There is no diplomatic solution to the war we fight with lone-wolf terrorists, and every drone attack that kills one of those terrorists seems to simply create more young men and women willing to take the lives of dozens of innocent civilians in pursuit of some terrible religious reward.
When the next terrorist on American — or German or French or Algerian — soil is just an internet browser-click from another deadly attack on civilians, we are all left to wonder just what we can do. Indeed, such questions were at the heart of this year’s divisive presidential campaign, and America remains divided on this issue and others.
Even as our government leaders seek solutions, we continue to wonder what we can do as individuals. The answer is simple, if not simplistic. We can only pray and love. It may well be that neither of those answers can assure our safety, but they are the two things we can be absolutely certain will not make us less safe.
How much better to live in dangerous and angry times having loved our neighbors than having harbored bitterness and hatred against them?