Giving the Middle Finger to Terrorists

With the holiday season upon us, those embarking upon international travel are inevitably being hit with a barrage of travel warnings from friends, family, government agencies, and the media. Even before Thanksgiving this year, ISIS released a terror teaser aimed at potential visitors to Rome that threatened an attack on the Vatican sometime in December. And Europe’s famous Christmas markets, a favorite of tourists and locals alike, have unfortunately also become a new target of wannabe terrorists in recent years.

But those who want to experience Europe around the holidays, or any time of year, should not be intimidated or scared away by groups of faceless social rejects who do not have the gonads to cope with modern life and want everyone instead to regress to the sixth century so they can feel better and more secure. If terrorists change our behavior, our patterns, and our ultimately our policies, they get exactly what they want and they win.

Terrorism is political by definition. Those who create carnage and destruction and ruin innocent lives do so in order to try to coerce some sort of change in policy or get revenge for a modern social norm they do not like. In other words, they seek to terrorize to further their own backward political and social goals.

Modern terrorists also aim to inflict economic damage as a way to strike a blow against the societies they hate. They know that setting off a small explosive in Paris or driving a van into traffic in London will deter tourists from visiting those cities as well as the rest of Europe. That is why refusing to be scared away from traveling is the best way to give terrorists the middle finger and help Europe recover from these incidents.

Last year, I was at the airport on the European side of Istanbul just hours before a group of gunmen and suicide bombers stormed into the terminal, opened fire on travelers, and set off several massive explosions. In all, 45 people were killed in the airport that day and more than 230 others were wounded. I had checked into that airport on Facebook just shortly before the news broke, and by the time my flight landed in Belgrade my phone had been flooded with messages asking if I was still in the airport and caught up in the attack.

That was a very close call – too close for some friends and family. But instead of vowing to avoid Istanbul or the Mediterranean region or other parts of Europe or the Middle East for the foreseeable future, I intentionally rerouted another trip just two months later so that I could return to Istanbul as a big “screw you” to those terrorists who came within a few hours of mowing down me too.

Americans are a strong, proud, and resilient people. After September 11th, we did not retreat inward and refuse to visit New York City or Washington, DC. Instead, we made pilgrimages there by the millions in the months and years that followed. I visited New York City just four months after 9/11 and Ground Zero on its one-year anniversary, and the city was bustling with other tourists who wanted to visit the city and site then too. This is who we are and how we operate, and we need to remember that when our European brethren are also threatened or attacked.

In November of 2015, terrorists simultaneously hit six locations in Paris, including a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater where 89 people were killed at that site alone. That same year I had plans to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris and my hotel was coincidentally located only a few blocks away from the Bataclan. Friends and family naturally expressed anxiety about me visiting Paris over a major crowded holiday only a month and a half after such a horrific attack, but there was no way I was going to cancel my plans.

Even after the city of Paris itself decided to scale back its public New Years celebration plans and cancel the midnight fireworks show in light of further threats, hundreds of thousands of Parisians and international visitors like me and my visiting friends refused to be terrorized and poured out onto the Champs Elysees together to ring in the New Year. We were vigilant as always but in no way afraid to be in Paris and go out into the crowds on such a beautiful and fun-filled night. Following through on our plans to celebrate was our “va te faire enculer” to the terrorists that desperately wanted to scare us away.

In the wake of the continued drumbeat of small-scale, random attacks every now and then across Europe, it is important now more than ever that international visitors refuse to cancel our pre-planned travel there. European police and intelligence agencies are well trained and very sophisticated, and for every incident that does occur there are numerous others that never did because the authorities are very good at their jobs and stopped them before they could be carried out.

I would even encourage everyone to go one step further. When a city gets attacked by yet another douche nugget terrorist – and it will almost inevitably happen again at some point – plan a special trip to that city soon thereafter. Whether it be London, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Barcelona, or wherever they happen to try to strike next, this is a great way to support the city’s economic recovery, show that you are not afraid, prove that terrorism does not work, and raise your own middle finger high in the air to terrorist rejects everywhere.