17 people were shot dead in France – you know this unless you have spent last week locked in the loo.
Now, as the French Prime Minister appeals for solidarity and inclusiveness, the blame game begins.
If the brothers and their associates (deliberately denied the oxygen of recognition in my small corner) had been noticed and tracked, why did they “fall off” the system and the authorities lost touch with them?
You can hear the more sensational commentators and newspapers, the ones that have to have a murder to sell a lunchtime edition, booming “Shortcomings in the security service – why didn’t the police do more?”
How much more do you want the security services to do?
The UK has a Muslim population of about two and a half million.
France has a Muslim population of six million.
France is a much bigger country than the UK and both have colonial pasts, which have encouraged Muslims to immigrate here. Better minds than mine can give you an insight into who came for education, who for health, who for housing, who for jobs, who because they already had family here, who because it was more settled, more ordered, with more hope. And who, disappointed in those hopes, turned to the one thing that brooks no reply – a big gun.
Policing such numbers takes an enormous amount of co-ordination, bodies, skills and time.
I am not saying we shouldn’t do it.
I am saying we have to be realistic in our expectations.
We won’t get them all.
An American acquaintance, nearly phobic about veiled women, exclaimed “It could happen in London!” And of course it could.
We have had the rehearsals and we have been told that several attempts were successfully anticipated and headed off.
I’d much rather hear that danger was averted, all done now and this time we’re OK, than the horrible reality show grotesquery of thousands of heavily armed men versus a small number of equally heavily armed men, the latter killing for the sake of it and heaven help anyone who gets in the line of fire.I would rather encourage the general public to think and look and turn off those earphones they wander round with in their ears, and pay attention to the world we live in.
I would rather provide a telephone number one can ring in confidence if in doubt, though I have to admit that if I had doubt, I would find someone in authority to tell.
I would rather continue to speak as I find, rather than looking for the same broad brushstrokes that a couple of generations ago, entitled IRA, meant anybody with an Irish accent was suspect.
Life isn’t as simple as that and anyone who tells you it is, is themselves deeply unreliable.
Generalisations may encourage the flow of thought and conversation but we can’t afford to believe “all Irish this” and “ all Muslims that”.
If anybody is praying to Allah tonight, I should think it’s President Hollande who located his bottom (“Stamina or strength of character” Oxford English Dictionary) and behaved better than he has heretofore.
And he needs to.
I am delighted that he let the Front National know that they would not be welcome at today’s ceremonies. Private people will do what they do but you can’t run on a racist ticket and then pout when you are not part of inclusion.
We are not part of a police state where informers flourish for a few quid and I do not want us to be.
If the notion of press freedom has rallied (even briefly) disaffected France, OK.
The outpouring of cartoons and sympathetic drawings meant a great deal to me.
I believe the pen is mightier than the sword but I think we are going to have a fight for it.