It is pretty much a cliché to say, but still bears repeating: bad things can (and do) happen anywhere. Here I am, at the other end of the world, in Sydney, Australia. A place that consistently ranks as one of the safest in the world, especially compared to other cities of similar size. And yet, yesterday it was all kinds of mayhem here, although thankfully not in my area and I was mostly unaffected. Still, if it had been but one day earlier, I was walking right by the location of the crisis. It could have happened to any of us if the timing was right (or wrong). I feel horribly for what the hostages must have gone through, all at the hands of one madman. And the poor souls killed in the crossfire during the rescue attempt after being held for all those hours. Total security and safety is (and has always been) an illusion, yet people are willing to inflict all kinds of horror and curtail all kinds of liberty and civil rights in an attempt to gain it. This has been one of the greatest tragedies of the post 9/11 period. For all the abuses of the state, all the laws passed by government, all the torture of suspected terrorists, and all the wars fought, safety remains elusive. And in the efforts, we have lost so very much in the way of freedom and community.
The only good thing to come out of all of this was a small bit of human kindness, amplified by Twitter via the hashtag #illridewithyou. People reaching out to those Muslims who might be afraid to be in public places (because they would be falsely blamed for the actions of a single madman), or on public transit, and offering to stand by them as a form of solidarity and protection.