And Bill Clinton are in agreement: terrorists might win in the short-term but ultimately larger forces will see them off.
If, in my last living moment, I find myself lost to a huge ball of flame I know what will be going through my mind: ‘‘Is this the work of terrorists? Or did I do something unbelievably stupid this time with the gas oven?’’
Which one’s the suicide bomber? People worry about that guy in seat 16b with the beard, about the woman with the pram, about those women in hijabs speaking a foreign language, which turns out to be Welsh. Meanwhile, statistically greater threats to our life lie in wait for us – the car, the alcohol, the cancer, the stepladder.
After 9/11 Bill Clinton wrote about terror and terrorists. It’s what I go back to each time there’s fresh breaking news and I think: God, not again. It’s what I go back to when politicians exploit that news to inflame hostility towards the guy in seat 16b and the woman with the pram.
What Clinton wrote was: in the short run, terrorists can inflict unspeakable misery. But in the longer run, he said, look at the long story of humanity. We keep rising, onward, upward; nothing stops us in the long run, from getting better.
Isis can do its worst. Hate-filled young men in England and France and Belgium can do their worst. But it will never be enough, not in the end, because in number they are small. They know that fear is their most powerful weapon. Their shadow is huge and terrifying, but the light is hitting someone little.
In the end, Bill Clinton said, they lose. Every time. Humanity goes on and keeps getting better, slowly, and often painfully, but inevitably.
A bomb can explode without warning in Manchester or Brussels or Baghdad, and leave us feeling vulnerable and scared, but history is carrying us upward. We are living better and longer than the generations before us.
We are also absurd and foolish and wrongheaded and doing our best to completely ruin the planet, but the point Clinton was making was true: the terrorists might win for an hour or a day, but not in the long run. Larger forces will see them off. Larger forces keep carrying us forward to be better, healthier, more prosperous and stable.
There are humans who are beyond contempt, despicable and evil; but the worst you can say about most of us is that we are a bit of a disappointment.
That onward march of history, though – can we be sure it keeps on Humanity goes on and keeps getting better, slowly, and often painfully, but inevitably. rising? Boy, if you’ve been watching the adaptation of The HandMaid’s Tale on Netflix, the horror of a postrevolutionary theocratic totalitarian USA gone all Taliban and doing unspeakable things to women, you might think to yourself: I’ve seen a bit of that, on 4Chan, at the Trump rallies, in some of Mike Pence’s speeches.
But this month a street preacher in Arizona held up a sign saying ‘‘You deserve to be raped’’ and was hit over the head with a baseball bat by an enraged woman. I have to say I cheered with the rest of Twitter, and not quietly. I see my double standard here, but you really should see what those monsters do in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian America.
What do we want, almost every one of us? Peace, surely, whatever belief, whatever religion we might hold to.
And maybe tolerance. Although that can be more of a challenge to achieve: people don’t trust what they don’t know.
In Toronto, I keep hearing, the food is just amazing, and that’s because the place is truly multicultural. By that they mean: all cultures are wholly mixed. There have been no ethnic enclaves, no siloed neighbourhoods. There is little racial tension, because everyone is familiar with everyone else’s ways. They know the guy in seat 16b, they know the name of the baby in the pram.
If it were actually true that the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims wanted the rest of us dead, there’d have been rivers of blood long before now. Fanatics are set on doing us the cruellest harm. They number in the thousands, perhaps the tens of thousands. But they speak for no-one else. Our task is to keep a sense of proportion about that. And hunt them down like dogs.
One of my earliest memories is of sitting at a table at kindergarten before Easter, dipping hard-boiled eggs in coloured dyes. The other kid at my table had painted his blue, and started eating it.
The kindy teacher came over and said, ‘‘Oh, Cole, did you eat your egg?’’ His mouth was full and his lips were blue but he shook his head – no.
That random memory was all I could think of this week during the Todd Barclay debacle. He lied when we could all see evidence to the contrary, as clear as blue egg all over a 4-year-old’s face.
Perhaps it’s also an appropriate analogy because the apologists for his behaviour were quick to point out that the poor guy was just young and immature. Todd Barclay entered Parliament at just 24 and his political career is cooked at just 27 – talk about peaking early.
He was our first MP to have been born in the 90s, but after this election Chloe Swarbrick is likely to scoop the title of Baby of the House given she’ll only be 23.
Are they just too young to go into politics?
Plenty of other young guns in parliament have done just fine – Jami-Lee Ross became a Manukau City Councillor at 18 and an MP at 25. He’s now National’s senior whip. He took the mantle of youngest MP from Gareth Hughes who was elected at 28 and is now sixth on the Green Party’s List. Jacinda Ardern became a Labour MP at 28 and of course is now the deputy leader at just 36.
Who could forget Mike Moore, who became an MP at 23 and went on to become prime minister?
Despite their youth and inexperience, they didn’t squander their potential, just like the more advanced age and experience of others hasn’t stopped them from stuffing up.
Aaron Gilmore was 39 when, in his second term as an MP, he drunkenly uttered that now infamous line ‘‘Do you know who I am?’’ at a restaurant in Hanmer. We all know who he is now – an idiot.
Shane Jones, a self-described ‘‘redblooded adult’’ was caught paying for red-blooded adult films on his ministerial credit at age 55. He looked less red-blooded than red-faced.
You see, immaturity can strike at any age. We shouldn’t hold politicians more or less accountable based on their age.
It’s not the number of trips you’ve had around the sun that will determine your success in Parliament.
Whether you enter Parliament at 24 or 44 I think it will be either your ego or your arrogance that will determine whether you end up with egg on your face.
Todd Barclay apparently had plenty of both. Whether you enter Parliament at 24 or 44 it will be either your ego or your arrogance that will determine whether you end up with egg on your face.