Our situation might be the same. And Wallander's circumstances gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own condition.
We are all racist, prejudiced, or caught up in this clash of civilizations thought process to some degree. As Nyberg says to Wallander in the BBC version of this story, "everyone deals with [racism]. It just matters what you do with it."
That's the key. We all wrestle with this idea of the clash of civilizations, the transformations and changes that come with immigration and population shift, with prejudice, ethnic tension, and racism. But it matters what we do with it.
The writers at Charlie Hebdo dealt with it by creating caricatures and using snark and satire to be equal opportunity offenders. Others deal with it through religious stereotyping and abject racism. Others take to the streets. Still others take to the polls. Others take up arms. Others write threatening letters.
Still others engage in dialogue, share a meal, build bridges through friendships, and work together to navigate the tension seemingly between Islam and Europe. This is the type of "dealing with it" we need to pursue.
The types of "dealing with it" that we need to denounce is essentializing caricatures, dichotomous rhetoric, religious racism, and violent terror.
Indeed, we must bear in mind that is possible, and fruitful, to condemn both the attacks as well as condemn caricatures, religious stereotyping, and racism.
5. THE STRANGER NEXT DOOR
The "Ariadne's Thread" throughout Faceless Killers is Wallander's daughter's boyfriend...who happens to be a foreigner (in this case, a Kenyan). Mankell personalizes the politically charged storyline of his novel by engaging his character in a "stranger next door" situation. He puts flesh on the issue.
And in doing so, Mankell makes it clear that Wallander's issues are resolved (sort of) through vulnerability, loving compassion, and his willingness to reveal his own deep sense of being flawed. Likewise, Mankell invites us to consider our own society, and ourselves, through Wallander's lens. The challenge he lays out is for us to take our responsibilities as citizens of a global village seriously, not avoiding the sometimes uncomfortable ambiguities of our situation, the unknown possibilities, prejudices, and "future shock" that confront us. The hope is that by personalizing a societal shift we might make incremental improvements and take authentic steps forward toward real renewal and community.
What does that look like? We come back to this crisis of identity, this seeming chasm between European and Islamic worldviews. So much of the rhetorical force of the situations drives us to consider this situation as "us" and "them," the "normal" and the "other."
The first step we must make is to reclaim community in a globalized world. Essentially, to redefine what it means to be European (or Western, or Muslim) in lieu of shifting population patterns. This will require relationship. It is difficult, nigh impossible, to feel a sense of community with abstract ideas and essentialized caricatures of "the other."
Peacemaker Jon Huckins wrote for Relevant magazine, "as ISIS fills the headlines, Islamophobia spreads like the common cold and sound bites trump human interaction, there is no more important time to build friendships with our Muslim neighbors." He gives five reasons, which I will expand on briefly: 1. A cure for fear; 2. An expanded worldview; 3. An antidote to isolationism; 4. Meeting the need for mutual relationship; 5. An understanding of misrepresentation.
Each of these is salient for the present situation. Fear, narrow cosmologies, isolation, loneliness, and misrepresentation are each plaguing the world and exacerbating the problems.
By simply walking across the street, sharing a meal, or befriending the stranger next door we could reverse the rising tides of malignancy, misunderstanding, and marginalization that are more threatening than any increase in Muslims in Europe, North America, or elsewhere.
It means flipping the script from "I'm friends with a Muslim even thought I'm European/Christian/Secular/etc." or "I'm friends with a European/Christian/Secular-Humanist/etc. even though I'm a Muslim" to "I'm friends with a Muslim because I'm European/Christian/Secular-Humanist/etc." and vice versa.
Certainly, there will be difficulties in coming together. There will be moments of frustration and awkwardness and miscommunication. Friendships are no panacea. This is no utopian vision. However, friendship can be a progressive means of fighting the rising tides of militant secularism and violent Islamism that threaten our societies, our world, and our individual lives.
As you wrestle with the harrowing headlines, struggle with your own prejudices, and try to figure out how to respond that you may consider Wallander's narrative as a guide for your own. More than anything, may it lead you deeper into relationship and understanding and away from violence encouraging rhetoric and a dichotomist clash of civilizations worldview that fails to appreciate diversity, hybridity, and the realities of local, intimate, social change.
*For that matter, dig deeper by reading a list of "10 Novels Every U.S. Christian Should Read" (which includes Faceless Killers), the blog "the Problem with American (or Western) Muslims," or "The Lonely Jihadi" to learn more.
*For more on religion & culture, follow @kchitwood