We have forgotten the true goal of terrorism. It can be difficult, especially in the aftermath of horrible events such as the one which occurred in Nice (or Dallas, or Orlando, or San Bernardino), as we prepared to bury the dead and do what we can to heal the wounded and care for all those who will never truly be whole again, that the goal of terrorism is not death. The goal of terrorism is in the name: terror; fear.
Every time we pick ourselves up and try and take stock of the damage and the pain, and allow ourselves to forget that what those who promote and execute these acts of violence are trying to generate is fear, we allow them to succeed.
Daesh would love to lay claim to the power to reach out and strike us there where it hurts the most. With every independent attack that is attributed to them, they have further proof that their reach is global, that they are able to infect our people with their poisons and use our people to hurt us. They take that power from our headlines, our speculating talking heads, our circumstantial analyses, and our political speeches.
Perhaps the man who struck out at the Queer Latinx community in Orlando justified his actions through the philosophy promoted by Daesh. Perhaps the man who drove a truck through a crowd in Nice came from Tunisia (where an overwhelming number of Daesh fighters hail from) and maybe he, too, justified his actions through their language.
That does not give Daesh the right to claim responsibility for their actions. Their power is not so great that they can reach across space and time and sow the seeds of their hate in the hearts of people who are thousands of miles away from them. These people are not molded by Daesh, they are molded at home, and their choices are their own, they can invoke Daesh in justification, but we do not have to believe them.
We can rob Daesh of their power. We have the power to make them lose the war abroad as they are losing the ground war in Syria and Iraq. Because when the perpetrators are dead—and they are all dead—there is no one left to speak for them. What we have to say about their origins and their motivations is as true as what Daesh has to say. When the Daeshi leadership learn about the attacks as we do, they are no more responsible for them than we are.
A generation of children already grew up with a boogeyman who lived in a cave in a desert most of them could not find on a map: his name was Osama bin-Laden. From September 2001 onward, children who were not yet old enough to comprehend what had happened in New York City and at the Pentagon knew his name and were afraid of him.
We can keep a new generation of children from knowing that fear. We can stop Daesh at the borders of their stolen territory, and their reach at the limits of their trained fighters and evil plots. We do not have to allow the words and tenets of their death cult to have the power of pandemic. We can acknowledge the violence it effects, and work to heal the wounds it leaves, and deny the infection a vector and the opportunity to spread.