Memorial Day, the Holocaust, mass graves in Uganda, September 11th—which is infamously branded into my mind, seeing as it’s my birthday. I woke up Saturday morning quite clueless that the world had changed: tilted another degree toward chaos. I couldn’t believe what I was reading on BBC about a coordinated terror attack and the more than one hundred innocents dead. I had no words then, so I borrowed another’s eloquence and posted a beautiful quote by Mr. King (Martin Luther, not Stephen). Afterward, I took the day to consider what had happened on the other side of the world.
Terror. Death. Religious fanaticism. I have problems with a God—any God—who condones the slaughter of civilians. That doesn’t sound like the Christian God, many of the Pagan Gods, Hindu Gods, or the God worshiped by any philanthropic, reasonable people. A God of Terror, maybe, or Fear and Anger, since that’s what motivates these attacks. I wonder if the individuals responsible for the attacks on Paris (now Turkey, too, I’ve just heard) will meet their God in the afterlife and receive the just reward for servitude to such a pitiless entity: fire, flaying, screaming-torment. Not sure what else one would expect from a deity of darkness other than eternal punishment. On the other hand, for the witnesses and survivors to this event, anger, even a little hatred, are justified reactions—especially for the families involved in the tragedy. Still, what happens once that red-haze clears is just as important. Look at what happened in Paris after the terror in their city had ended:
While so much of the news and footage of the event has been gut-wrenching, the above image—and unspoken sentiment—evokes a clear message of hope. Terror didn’t win. Innocents were killed, buildings hollowed by bullets, and blood filled the streets. But then, in the morning, music, kindness, humanity and fellowship resonated through what’d been Friday’s battlefield. A wave of terror can rise to drown society, and so, too, will those of us with conviction push back as a wave of light. I’m horrified, though I’m also inspired. I’m bereft, and yet strangely empowered when I see this image. It’s like a beautiful song at a funeral: that eternal lesson of darkness and light.
Fuck you, Terror—and all who serve you. What grieves me as much as the people who were taken from their families, is the insidious stain that’s left in the wake of terrorism. We must stand against that corruption of our values as much as we rally during these acts of terror. For after the incident—the mourning, the healing, the moving on—a subtle evil remains: a simmering anxiety when a brown man passes us in the street and we wonder if he’s received secret instructions from someone at his mosque. I’m not Muslim, or of eastern descent, though I am an olive-skinned man. More than a few times, I’ve been on the receiving end of racial slurs and profiling. Now and again, despite a symmetry shared by people who’ve experienced bigotry, and regardless of my focus on humanities, even I still have the most un-politically-correct and egregious voices rear inside my head. I don’t believe those voices, though I can’t stop them from speaking. The battle for propriety and goodness is constant. We all have the Devil inside of us. The terrorists in Paris simply listened to their whisperer, succumbed to weakness, and then let the Devil out.
When that whisper comes to you, which it will, no matter how pious you may be: smash it down. Push back at hate, be the wave of light. Remember that if you capitulate to your basest hatreds, if you rebuke hate with hate, then the men who’ve sought to incite terror in Paris and elsewhere have won: they’ve twisted you—your faith in humanity, your faith in yourself. We cannot let them win this equally important struggle against the monsters in ourselves. We must armor ourselves in love.
I want the orchestrators of this tragedy found and brought to justice; from what I understand the terrorists themselves are all dead. I want us to remember the names of the innocents who died in Paris, and not the names and faces of the men who so desperately sought to spread their doctrine of hate. Do you know any of the victims’ names? The news tends to leave out these details—privacy conflicts and respect to the families who want to remain private, notwithstanding. I want to see less sensationalism, and more solidarity, more compassion, in the aftermath of these evils. I know that we can do better: journalists, survivors, watchers, commentators and healers. For now, and for the next while, I’ll put aside my conflicted feelings on the divine and #Prayers4Paris.
The latter isn’t a bad choice, since we’re stronger when we challenge what makes us uncomfortable. Maybe God and I will finally work our shit out. I’m tired of fighting Her anyway. I don’t even think it’s Her with whom I’ve been fighting. Rather, it’s the hypocrites running around and presuming to act in Her name.
All my love,
P.S. Here’s how you can more tangibly support victims of the Paris terror attacks, if prayers aren’t your thing. I plan on donating blood and money.