Days like today are so devastating because they remind us of how small we are. How vulnerable. They remind us that life is short and ultimately so destructible. But they also remind us of how good we can be to one another, and that we really are stronger together than we are apart.
But tweeted sympathies and facebook’d prayers do very little in the absence of actual change. We must change the way we speak to one another. The way we interact with those around us, the way we think of our fellow global citizens. We must pay attention to our news media. Ignore the news outlets that use violent words in their headlines to get your attention. Don’t allow them to call every disagreement ‘a war’, every conflict ‘a battle’. We must pay attention to our politicians and the words they use and the domestic and foreign policies they support. Don’t allow them to refer to their own citizens as ‘aliens’ and threaten to ‘defeat’ or ‘destroy’ our brothers and sisters abroad. Stop voting for those who take such violent rhetoric when speaking about how we as a nation will interact with members of other nations. They are the ones who represent us. They speak for us because there are far too many Americans to hear all of our voices clearly. So stop allowing our represented voice to be so angry, violent, and accusatory. Let there be no more talk of ‘blood-baths’, ‘killing’, or ‘battle fields’. Let’s stop searching for ways to exclude and deport people and ideas that are different from our own. Instead, we should look for ways to include every person, every good idea, every ounce of love we can muster in our national conversations.
With our current practices, it should come as no surprise that one might feel the only way to get their voice heard is through an act of massive, violent destruction. It’s become our mother tongue. It is our first and only reaction to the things that threaten our accepted way of life. If the threat is domestic, we beat it and send it to prison. If the threat is global, we go to war. All the while not realizing that we are conditioning responses from people of our own country and frustrating and emboldening members of foreign ones.
So let’s realize it now. Let’s make conscious choices to eliminate this way of thinking and replace it with consideration and compassion. It is natural to be fearful time and again. We can’t let the fear translate to violence.