I have been to these places (and many others - Boston, New York, Kenya). I have walked in these streets. I have felt safe and welcome and confident that the future would bring a world that is better than the one in which I was walking. I add my voice of condolences to the chorus that has so rightfully been pouring forth. But I want to go further. What I was going to do this morning can wait.
It is so easy to feel fear. It is so natural to want to run to your children and bury your face in their hair and then go out and want to fight anything that could threaten them - windmills and all. It is natural to want to find your tribe and to wrap yourself up in it hoping for safety. I too am crying and screaming and scared and angry. I too would love the comfort of a god or a government or anything else that could keep me and mine safe. As I join so many others casting about in the dark that we have found ourselves in I do not find one bright light, I find billions of wavering sparks, each threatening to be blown out by fear and anger, but still burning tenaciously. I find light in each of us, in the knowledge that we all share a place on a pale blue dot hurtling through a field of stars each beautiful in their twinkling.
The light in me recognizes the light in you. The light in me recognizes the light in the people doing the harm as well.
It’s not about whether or not ISIS is representative of all Muslims (of course they’re not), or whether or not America is a Christian nation (constitutionally we’re not). It’s not about who our politicians are (though that matters) or what group one god or another favors (there’s been enough gods over the course of history to go around). It’s about all of us needing to feel effective, to feel safe, to feel like the future we leave our children is going to be better than the past. The world is changing. It has always been changing. Many of the attitudes, religions, and politics that may have served us in the past aren’t working today.
Change is hard. I hate change. Change is scary. Change can mean that you have to admit you don’t know what you’re doing, that you don’t really know how to protect and provide for those you love. No one likes to make that sort of an admission. It’s easier to place blame, to hold on to a religion or ideology or government, to try to put up walls and get out guns. But that’s not working. It’s just been getting in the way of the one thing that can unite all of us: our basic, raw humanity.
I believe that is true on both sides of the fuse.
So I implore you: since what we’ve been doing isn’t working, try something new with me. Let’s help each other find the light in ourselves, in every one of us. Let’s look to ourselves for the responsibility for the world we live in and the keys to making it better. Let’s acknowledge the universal fears and hopes that make all of us human and the desperation that can drive us (any of us) to do harm. Retaliation won’t help. Blame won’t help. Isolation and escalation will do harm. Through fear and apathy and by looking outside ourselves for answers we’ve gotten to a place none of us want to be. Through compassion, courage, and personal connection we can get closer to the world in which we all want our children to grow up.
I believe that the only way out of this mess is one person at a time: this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Please join me. The future of my baby girl - the future of all of our children - depends on it.