Last Friday evening, I was among the millions of onlookers who were transfixed to their television sets through the night. For hours, I endured reports from the BBC News and CNN as they delivered the same sliver of news in every way possible. My hope through it all was that something more definite would be released that could tether our collective pain and confusion to its rightful owners.
But I held onto one hope greater than the opportunity to place blame, and it was that the credit for that day’s atrocities wouldn’t be claimed by ISIS, ISIL, or whatever you please – because the reality that exists on the other side of such knowledge is overwhelming. But sure as the sun rises, it was all theirs – and I don’t think any of us doubted it for a minute. In truth, we all already knew.
The scene that unfolded around Paris – particularly at the Bataclan Theater – was gruesome and the details were something from an action or suspense film that we’ve all seen more than once. But let’s step outside of Paris and look around the world.
We’re seeing similar events play out in real time with real death and despair in locations that rarely make it onto our western radar. It all just gets wrapped up under the working title of “Middle Eastern conflict and turmoil.” The details leading up to each violent outburst are rarely explained and there are a myriad of reasons for this ranging from the relation to our international interests to the vastness of the world we share. But the intricacies matter because it is through our understanding of them that we will be able to better see how interconnected all of this really is and will be better equipped to craft a plan that speaks to the interests of all affected parties rather than simply our own.
More importantly, we can be better suited to craft a plan that will work and that will hopefully – eventually – re-stabilize this part of our world from which hundred of thousands of migrants have fled.
If we intend to work against terror cells alone or without input from other nations and without a focus of re-stabilizing the Middle East, we will fail. So there is no place for an isolationist mentality anymore.
As we roll further into the 2016 election cycle, we are going to hear louder cries for war and closed borders. We are going to continue hearing talking heads and politicians pander, promote fear, and victim-blame other nations for accepting refugees when tragedy strikes. But these are cheap political shots that will achieve nothing and are based in nothing akin to leadership. Our country is familiar with tragedy and we could be no clearer in our understanding of where we stand with those who oppose all who enjoy freedom that is not dictated by religion.
So I implore you to look beyond political opportunists and toward those who have an interest in solidifying our place of leadership in the world that is less reliant on brute force and further committed to a strategy that will help us comprehensively transcend such unbridled hatred that threatens the stability of our world.
Lastly, I invite you back into a new moment of stillness where you can reflect on where we are and where we must go together with the words of Somali-British writer and poet Warsan Shire:
“I’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
I come from two countries
One is thirsty
The other is on fire
Both need water.
Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
Ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
It’s our move, but together.