Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Courage, Optimism, and Love: a response to terror in 2015

It is impossible to live today and not feel surrounded by, and at times directly assaulted by, acts of terror. Last week’s shootings in Paris, alongside the attacks, bombings, and massacres in northeast Nigeria have been another reminder that the global drumbeat of terror marches tragically forward. It knows no limits of continent, nationality or time zone; we are all under attack and all must stand together to reject and denounce this cowardly, pessimistic and hate filled agenda. Just as millions came together last Sunday to link arms and march together in the “Unity March,” so too must we broadly and virtually “link arms” together to stand up to these horrific acts of terror.

As I think about the responses to these acts of terror, there are clearly immediate actions required. What security measures must be improved and in what countries, what communities or locations are uniquely under threat and need enhanced protection, what improvements in global security collaboration and communication should be enacted, etc., etc. These responses are sensible and need to be explored and acted upon promptly. My concern is the growing cries of fear, revenge and retribution, whether directed toward immigrant communities across a variety of countries or towards specific religious groups closer to home. It is in this context that I want to suggest an alternative response to the terror of today, that response centered on the principles of courage, optimism and love.

These three ideas, courage, optimism and love almost seem na├»ve and out of place in today’s security centered discussion of global terror threats. As a clear and strong rejection to a number of the core principles of the terror groups active today, we must be vocal and active in our support of these three key ideals:

Courage: as a response to the cowardly acts by the terror groups, whether exemplified by a shooting of innocent shoppers in a Parisian supermarket, a masked beheading of an aid worker in the desert, or the use of school girls as suicide bombers in Nigeria, our response to these cowardly acts need to be courageous. Just seeing the linked arms of a number of world leaders who marched together in Paris last Sunday, striding “out in front” of the crowds, boldly proclaiming their unity AND courage, was truly inspiring.

Optimism: whether through the lens of a global citizen, or as a husband and father of two wonderful teenagers, we must be centered on the idea that (quoting from Dr. King’s Nobel prize acceptance speech) we are not just the “Flotsam and Jetsom of history,” and that we can and must reject hatred and fear and the “isness of humanity” and be centered on the actions required to achieve the “oughtness” of our collective future.

Love: finally a very emotionally packed ideal that may seem out of place in this response to terror. In a previous essay on this blog (“the Golden Rule from Dulles Airport”) I comment on the wide variety of cultures, faith traditions and communities that fundamentally espouse the “golden rule.” While translated a bit differently across cultures and languages, simply said it’s “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or a touch more simply, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” If we can focus on acts of “love,” with a perspective that in our global village we are actually all “neighbors.” The terror groups feed the fire of hatred, why one group/faith/community should be hated and why and how that hatred can be used to legitimize unspeakable acts. We must reject that idea and NOT respond with hatred in kind. It’s my opinion that only through acts of “love to our neighbors” can we break this cycle of hate filled violence.

As we all move into 2015, try to keep these three ideas close at hand. Unfortunately, the year ahead will probably hold more painful and horrific moments, fueled by the terror groups cowardly, pessimistic and hate filled beliefs and actions. We must all strive to reject those ideas/ principles and look for ways to be vocal and active on another lens for our world, one centered on the ideals of “Courage, Optimism, and Love!”

Nous sommes Charlie”

“Nous sommes Achmed”

“Nous sommes dans le monde”