By now, you’ve probably heard about the terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium and the Turkish capitol of Ankara. It’s devastating, terrifying, and seems like affirmation that the world is in complete disorder. Most folks are are expressing condolences and concerns online. Some are decrying the bombers as “cowards.” Other voices are loudly calling for revenge.
I get it. Anger feels good. Anger feels powerful. Getting angry makes us feel like we’re in control, like we’re taking action. It’s “the American way.” What we don’t want to hear is that “anger” is just a self-righteously dressed up word for “fear”—fear of not getting what we want, fear of losing what we have. Yet reacting from a place of fear won’t solve the chaos we feel in our current divisive atmosphere. In fact, it’s playing right in to what terrorists are out to do: Divide us, disconnect us. As long as we keep trying to build walls or “carpet-bomb” ideologies or shut down borders to those fleeing danger, we’ll never achieve the stability so many of us say we want. Matching their hate with hateful reactions reminds me of the proverb, “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: One for his enemy and one for himself.”
There is so much to say, so much to process. It’s taken me two days to even find the words to put this post together. Sayings from Lao Tzu on softness, Thich Naht Hanh on compassion, or Mr. Rogers on “the helpers” come to mind. There isn’t enough bandwidth to make sense of it all. But I’ll share this: I once heard Marianne Williamson say of the 9/11 hijackers that “they were not cowards; they hated with conviction.” She then asked, who among us sent love into the world “with conviction?” None of us could say that we loved with absolute conviction. I still don’t always remember to do that, though I’ve never forgotten her point.
Those behind the atrocities in Brussels and Ankara must face and deserve consequences for their horrific deeds. Of that, there’s no doubt. But an angry, knee-jerk response on our part almost guarantees that days and times like these will happen again and again. We need to find another way. We need more than thoughts and prayers.
Just hours after the incidents, the people of Belgium were outside writing messages of peace on their streets. Do we have the conviction to do the same?