We appear to be at war. Al Qaeda, and ISIS in Iraq and the Levant, have sent their emissaries into our homes and offices – yesterday those of Charlie Hebdo in Paris – to kill, maim and frighten. We, or at least Washington, Westminster and to a lesser degree Paris, have sent back drones, planes and bombs that kill soldiers and civilians.
The newspapers here in Catalonia are predicting that yesterday’s killings in Paris will strengthen the extremists (Marine le Pen et ses plusieurs amies) in France, just as drone strikes must radicalise the populations of Pakistan, Afghanistan or the Yemen. UKIP and the slightly more barmy BNP in the UK are likely to benefit too.
This feels like war.
There are deaths. There is the cry that these deaths, here, are wrong. There is propaganda, and the involvement of secret services, drones and a Fifth Column (a term devised in Spain).
How should Scotland react?
Scotland could join the war. Send troops, arms, bombs into the Levant.
No. That is not going to stop the killing. Our young men and women, and those living in the Levant, would all lose out from such a policy.
Scotland should do the reverse. We already have active, peaceful, friendly Muslim communities in our cities and towns. We should multiply our efforts to make friends in the Muslim world, to build bridges, to offer people a route out of the poverty and injustice that are part of the background to this stupid, tragic, murderous conflict. Each of us can do that.
We will resolve this conflict, like all conflicts, by listening to the other side, understanding her or him, and then learning that her struggle is our struggle – her call for justice, peace, and an end to poverty is ours too.
I hope that Scotland can do that before the barriers slam down.