It’s Monday afternoon, three short days after a terrorist group cowardly attacked and killed 120 unarmed civilians and physically and mentally harmed countless more in Paris.
I think I’ve kissed you a thousand times since I first read the words across my screen: another terrorist attack, more innocent lives lost. Today I’m one of the lucky ones, I just get to hug you extra tight today as you smile absolutely oblivious to the reality of the world outside your door. One day, I will need to rationally explain to you why these events occur, why there is so much hatred and fear in a world filled of people just like you and I.
You are a white, middle class, American girl who will grow up in the Boston suburbs. You will be surrounded by well-educated peers, neighbors, and friends. You’ll have healthy foods stored in your refrigerator, clean water running through your house, and you’ll partake in countless extracurricular activities to strengthen your body and mind. You’ll have everything you’ll ever need to grow up and become a happy, healthy, loved, and knowledgeable adult. I say these things because you will never know what it is like to grow up in Syria or another war-torn territory, you’ll never see bloodshed daily or have fear infiltrate your entire soul. Although (thanks to all-that-is-good-in-this-world) you will not know or experience these atrocities firsthand, I want you to have the empathy and compassion for these fellow human beings. Let me explain.
This is not the first and will not be the last atrocity we see or collectively experience as members of the human race by other members of the human race. You will one day read and hear about these stories while in the comfort of your home or your classroom. It is hard to try and understand something that truly makes no sense. To make rationality out of something so irrational, something so hurtful, cowardly and senseless. Unfortunately, this is part of the world we live in, a world we’ve always lived in, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Through all you see and all your hear, I want you to always remember that these acts of hate, acts of cowardice, acts of warfare are not the norm, and they did not happen in a vacuum. The origination of these acts are multifactorial, and cannot be solved by reaction, overreaction, or fighting back with fire as many news outlets and politicians vying for the 2016 presidential seat will have you believe. There is not a simple solution to this problem, there are no clear answers. These are systemic issues, with a long history, which are highly integrated with large international environmental issues, which have a lot to do with humanity and the resources we collectively share.
When people are starved of food and water, a roof over their heads, education systems to learn in, jobs to earn a living to fulfill the primary and secondary needs of themselves and their families, a community to feel welcome and safe in, laws that adequately protect them, religious freedom that allows them to believe in something that gets them through their hard days, freedom to live without varying imprisonments, coercion or needless discrimination— a sense of hopeless can evolve. You saw it in the Paris attacks, you see it in the police violence against our own here in America, you see it all over villages in Africa, you’ve seen it since the first recorded history, it is viable anywhere and everywhere these before mentioned humanitarian and environmental issues exist. Either alone or in combination, these factors provide the circumstances for these attacks to occur. The news, people, they all want and do blame something. This blame helps us ignore find the root causes of such atrocities, thus, the atrocities multiple and continue, until eventually more warfare is needed to mitigate how bad it could get. But it isn’t the end. Until we understand and fix the root causes, it is not the end.
I am a positivist, I know that; However, I am not naïve, as this entirely over-simplication of the current issue(s) will have you believe. I know that these senseless acts of violence are not simple matters with simple solutions. I say these things because I want nothing more than for you to be a loving, compassionate, empathetic human being—and for you to understand the problem, and the most rational way to understand the irrational or how/why these situations are able to occur, it involves a deeper look.
If you think of the human race, you will not see a race dependent on the color of skin, you will not see sex as gender anatomy, or a difference in religion based on belief about who our creator is. You will instead see that each one of us need the basic human needs of nourishment in the form of food, water, and shelter, as well as acceptance, love, health and well-being. At the core, we are no different. If you embrace this viewpoint, you will fear less. If you fear less, you will be able to love, understand, and appreciate the superficial differences of people because you’ll truly known that at our core, we are all the same.
Underneath it all, I hope you see past the guises, the things that divide us, the things society teaches us to fear that allow us to feel ‘OK’ shutting people out and turning a blind eye to humanity, that make us fear whole categorizations of people—instead, I hope you embrace humanity. Form your own opinions. Please do not take the easy way out and think in such simpleton terms. Life is not black and white, these issues are about as gray as you get. I shudder to the core of my being when I see presidential candidates talk about a ‘wall.’ The ignorance of our differences is what led us here, and I hope one-day we as a human race see through the human race lens to honor, respect, and love one another– which in turn will allow for us to collaboratively fight terrorism, discrimination, and hate.
I am in no way saying I don’t think there are things to fear in this world, there are plenty, but whole groups of people are not one of them. I think every human being can be a part of the problem or part of the solution in the way you think and act on a daily basis. I hope you chose love, acceptance, compassion, and empathy for the victims of these heinous crimes—such as the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Syria.
And at the end of the day, I hope you never use your life situation and comforts to turn a blind eye, pretend these situations do not exist, or worse, allow situations such as these to make you fear a person or groups of persons based on religion, race, gender or other superficial characterizations. We are the human race and we should care for one another as such. Be the light when there is none.
In the meantime, I will snuggle you close and enjoy every waking moment I am able to spend with you. I know I will one day have to let you go find your own way in this world, and when that day comes, I hope you choose love.
I love you,
[Picture taken while living in Uganda]