This Is How the 21st Century Begins

There are events in history that become the symbolic indicators of either hope or terror. The 20th century provided such events: the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which unleashed a great war; the Reichstag fire, which revealed the repulsive face of fascist nationalism; the murder of Kirov, which showed what Soviet communism was really like; Auschwitz, the symbol of the ultimate extermination; Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which, regardless of their reasons and intentions, remain a symbol of the dreadful destructive force in the hands of modern man.

The 20th century also had its hopeful signs: the defeat of fascism, and the Solidarity movement, which began the peaceful dismantling of communism.

We entered the 21st century full of great hopes, but also anxiety. Undoubtedly, a sign of hope is that democracy is blossoming in so many countries. What happened in New York is a symbol of the terror that the greatest pessimists warned against. The attack was the deed of madmen who—whoever they are—need no justification, no legitimacy. It is enough to have money and a dead conscience. They killed completely innocent people to achieve ends that—obviously—cannot be reached in this way.

The devil whom the world of progress, democracy, and knowledge wished to bury has unveiled his terrible face.

Here in Poland, we have felt the tragedies and triumphs of the 20th century on our own skin. Now we join with the American people in their pain and despair. We add our cry of outrage.

Michnik, a former dissident, is the daily’s editor in chief.