It should go without saying that my heart goes out to Belgium today as it went out to Turkey a few days ago and as it goes out to the people of Syria, South Sudan, Iraq and Nigeria every single day. It’s extraordinarily depressing how much longer I could make that list. And it does scare me when I think about my son growing up in a world filled with so much conflict and violence.
I have to remind myself that we all focus on the events that are the most shocking rather than those that are most pervasive. The reason we’re going to spend days, maybe weeks, talking about the dozens of innocents who were killed in Brussels while not sparing a minute on the thousands who have been killed in South Sudan over the last two years is because both Sudan and South Sudan have been plagued by violence for such a long time we’ve become numb to it while Belgium has been a place of relative peace and security since the end of WWII. The lives of the Belgians are no more valuable than the lives of the Sudanese and obviously what’s happening in Sudan deserves A LOT more media coverage than it’s been getting. But seeing an attack on an area we’ve come to think of as one of our safe places, a land that has been a sanctuary for others fleeing violence elsewhere, is a shock to the system and deserves attention and examination. It’s a new loss to morn.
PERSPECTIVE IS KEY:
We should also remember that while a little over 3000 people have died from terrorist attacks inside the US between 2001 and now, over 400,000 have died from the use of firearms in the U.S. (non-terrorist related) and almost 4 million have died in traffic accidents all in that same period. I point this out because I think at times like these we tend to become the most fearful of the smallest risks. To quote one of my favorite books, Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, “the bullet your running from is never the one that hits you.”
Fear divorced from rationalism is a huge threat to all of us. Yes, what happened in Brussels is horrific and scary as is what happened in San Bernardino and Turkey and Paris. Security measures and a calculated response are both necessary. But if we spend our lives being wary of every Middle-Eastern looking stranger as if he/she is a possible enemy operative, as if this person is more likely to be a threat to you than the guy who barely missed you while doing an illegal left turn in his SUV, we are bound to make poor decisions, screw up our priorities and foster an atmosphere of hate an paranoia.
Lastly I want to point out how much good is still in the world. It doesn’t get reported but everywhere I look I see people extending kindness to strangers. If you were to count up all the times a stranger has opened a door for you, helped you retrieve something you dropped or left behind, asked you if you needed help when you looked hurt or confused, stopped so you could pet their dog or offered you directions when you needed it you’d come up with a much bigger number than you would if you were counting up all the slights you’ve endured from random jerks. Considering all our differences and divisions I think that in and of itself is a little miraculous.
So thoughts and prayers today for the people of Brussels. Stand strong and don’t let those who are fueled by hate take away the things that make you so amazing or push you to compromise your principals. It can be a scary world, but it’s mostly wonderful.