After yet another very public attack in France, Western governments are scrambling to convince their citizens they are safe, and everything is under control. Even as combined military forces continue to barrage ISIS in Syria and Iraq, civilians at home have been terrorized by a string of very public mass murders. Government leaders have trotted out the usual placating noises, but that message is beginning to wear thin on folks who are tired of seeing carnage on the evening news and all over their social media feeds.
The most recent attack, a driver ramming a stolen panel truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day, sent a very clear message: we want you scared, and we never want you comfortable.
It’s a stark reality that’s becoming the new normal in both the United States and Western Europe. After every attack, citizens seek out their government officials hoping for words of hope and encouragement. Instead, there’s partisan politics and handwringing. Neither the messages nor the optics are being well received by a public increasingly at each other’s throats.
In the absence of strong political messaging, the mob is coming up with its own contrary solutions. Some want more war. Some demand less. Some want more immigrants, some want the borders closed indefinitely. Most people – both in the US and in France – are somewhere in the middle on these issues, but it’s the fringe groups that tend to have the loudest voices and earn the most TV time. For there to be any political progress on this issue, that must change.
When half the country hates your message, something is out of sync. It’s not just the political division contributing to this chaos, but ask different people what the cause is, and you get diametrically opposed reasoning.
Some say it’s the failure of leadership to name the enemy. Others say it’s the failure of the Other Side to embrace those outside their group who are also against terrorism. As this self-sustaining going nowhere conversation continues to spin, the general public lacks for a strong, cohesive vision to bring people together to oppose a common enemy and celebrate the freedom earned by their forebearers.
Like no time in recent history, people are clamoring for a message to rally behind, but their leaders seem too busy to notice. Who is willing to step up, because if it doesn’t happen soon, the loud, angry voices will be the only ones left with any message at all.