Unsettled, Unsentimental, Unwilling to Give up the Idea of Peace

Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris brought a media blitz in the U.S. that clearly showed how this country is biased as to which acts of war get our attention. The horrific evil of Friday’s events notwithstanding, we pay a lot more attention to white people in familiar settings who get killed than to darker-skinned people in exotic places who also get killed. This is nothing new. This is what happens here. I was reminded of this on Facebook, of all places, as posts streamed over the newsfeed about how acts of terror recently in Beirut, Baghdad, and elsewhere did not get as much coverage here, did not elicit as much outcry here, yet affected just as many people.

And I am stumped as to how to talk about all this. Stumped as to what, exactly, I should be doing to make any sort of difference, no matter how small it is. Because when terrorist attacks happen, they wipe out all the logical conversations that people like me want to have. Things like prayer become largely irrelevant as anything other than a comfort for those who believe in it. I’ll own up to the fact that I do not believe in God. But I do believe in good and evil, in peace and compassion, in fairness. I believe in action that accomplishes something: getting food to those who need it, getting money to organizations that work to save people’s lives, understanding something before reacting to it.

So, what are we to do as a country with a diverse population, in a world that is divided by passionate beliefs that have no room for tolerance?

I have a daughter who just turned 21. A son who is also a husband, a father, an artist. Their futures look unsettled and scary. How we live with our neighbors is shifting as opportunities for violence are exploited by those so blinded by radical philosophy that they cannot see any other way to make their point. But I am unwilling to give up on the idea of peace. Human beings have as much capacity for love and kindness as they have for violence and hatred. What it takes to tip the scales is what we have to figure out.


6 comments

  1. Thank you. Australia has also been suffering with a very similar empathy blindness. Which has been annoying me. All of the people who have lost loved ones are grieving. Paris is indeed an heart-breaking atrocity. But no more than any of the others.
    I really don’t know what the solution is, but I hope (so much) that we find one which leads us down the path to peace. We need to start thinking of the world as a community. No us and them… Which feels foolishly idealistic, but I continue to dream.
    I also am not a believer in a supreme deity, but do believe in the power of kindness.

  2. It seems to me as if in this country you are for peace, you get killed–too much of a gun culture here.
    Who can take down the NRA?

  3. I think a lot of it is because Paris is familiar, and the other places are ‘foreign’. We know little about the people living there, their trials and struggles. We can identify with Parisians sipping coffee in a cafe. You’re right it comes down to an Us against Them mentality. That’s how armies function. We make the enemy ‘other’, and therefore they are easier to kill. They’re not one of us. Outsiders are easier to kill. Which is why, I think, Republicans are so intent on making the Syrians out to be Other. Then they don’t have to live up to the Christian morality they pay lip service to. When things are scary, kindness and compassion go out the window.


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