Addressing his audience on Monday, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah decided to forgo comedy altogether and instead reflect on the tragic events that took place in Paris. He opened his show by noting that he believes the reason dealing with the Paris attacks is so tough is because “often terrorism seeks to replace [life’s simple] moments with death and fear.”
“We all are afraid,” he said. “We replace that fear with anger a lot of the time, but I think what we should try to choose to do is not focus on the perpetrators, because every attack, whether Paris, Beirut, Kenya, seems less about a specific group and more about an attack on humanity itself.”
More importantly, he focused on the way Parisians showed the world that the way to battle inhumanity is with humanity itself as with the displays of kindness and empathy that followed, from the #PorteOuverte hashtag that let people know residents were opening their doors for the night to anyone who needed shelter to the taxis who were disabling their meters and taking people home for free.
“The way to win is to be better than these people. To be good and fair people who respect the rule of law and stand for the liberty of the individual. The answer to such an attack lies in the revolutionary promise of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité.’”
As Noah points out, the response might tell us something about what it is France stands for and what is being attacked. As Tim Stanley put it in The Telegraph, “The way to win is to be better than these people. To be good and fair people who respect the rule of law and stand for the liberty of the individual. The answer to such an attack lies in the revolutionary promise of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité.’” This echoed President Barack Obama’s remarks immediately following the attacks, stating that those values “will endure far beyond any act of terrorism.”
It’s a tough proposition to accept, perhaps, but one which requires embracing a long intellectual history of “loving thine enemy.” From Jesus to Martin Luther King Jr., the approach always seems much more plausible in theory than in practice. But that’s precisely how Noah himself ended his segment on the Paris attacks: “Our prayers will be with Paris. Our prayers are with the people,” he concluded. “But let’s not forget, before we fight, to love.”