Today was supposed to be a day for a light-hearted post, so I’m extra pissed at the latest ISIS debacle, to say nothing of my sadness for the people of Brussels. That said, with this tragedy at the forefront of the day, the only options that seemed reasonable were to address the attack or to go quiet. And I’ve never been very good at quiet.
The reality is, as terrible as I feel for Brussels, as terrible as I felt for the people of Paris, Madrid, London, insert your country’s city here–I’m also tired of this. I’m tired of the media hard-on and the rampant American sentiment of blow-those-fuckers-up-right-back (or worse ignorance). I’m tired of the world looking so much more like hate than it does like love, and seemingly more often. And I’m sad that through anger, pride, and an overdeveloped sense of vengeance, we’re only compounding the number of awful things that happen in this world.
I want to make you a list. Here it is, in no particular order:
Hezbollah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Black September, Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Brigades, Red Brigades, Islamic Jihad, Red Brigade, Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, Provisional Irish Republican Party, Abu Nidal Organization, Arab Revolutionary Cells, Revolutionary Popular Struggle, Islamic Resistance Movement, Red Army Faction, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, al-Qaeda, Aum Shinrikyo, al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, Armed Islamic Group, Al-Faran, Islamic State, Revolutionary Organization 17 November, Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, Harakat-ul-Ansar, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, Harakat-ul-Jihad, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, National Liberation Army, Abu Sayyaf Group, Taliban–I could continue, but this is actually already five lines longer than I’d expected it to be.
The groups above are or were all involved in some kind of extremist behavior since 1969, most of them terrorist organizations or cells. 1969. That’s less than 50 years. Prior to 1969, there are virtually no examples of extremists operating at this level on a global scale outside of war, probably because things like bombs and compact guns and homemade explosives weren’t as readily available to common people as they are today. But that’s a topic for another time.
From 1969 until the 80s, there were few terrorist attacks as we define them today, though they began to become more commonplace around 1973. By the 1990s, there were terrorist attacks somewhere in the world every few months, if not more frequently. Today, we hear about ISIS or al-Qaeda or someone else blowing up or beheading or otherwise butchering people it seems every few weeks. From school shootings to genocidal destruction, the wickedness of this world doesn’t seem to have let up since the advent of humanity, and thanks to firepower, it seems to have gotten a lot worse.
What I’m hoping to demonstrate here is that in a very short period of time, a massively violent norm has emerged among those who prefer control to peace. That’s a tough thing to overcome, and we certainly won’t succeed with hate, haughtiness, or the proverbial fire-on-fire fight. Now, if I may, I’ll let my dirty hippie side have a word or two.
Love. Why is love so hard for people? Terrorists are the extreme, but you don’t need to go to an explosion site or a war-torn country to see that there is still so, so much love lost on the human race. We trick ourselves into believing we’re civilized and tolerant, and sometimes we are, but never to the extent we think we are. In America, where we’ve been lucky not to have war or ongoing terrorism or rebellion for many, many years, we think we’re good at loving. But walk just a few blocks down any New York City street and you’ll be judged by the clothes you wear or the style of your hair. You won’t know you’re judged–not unless you’ve lived here long enough to recognize and accept it. But you will be. Silently, momentarily, almost inconsequentially–except judging one another is not as inconsequential as we like to think it is. It is a snowball effect, and Americans are rolling down the same steep slope as the rest of the world.
But I digress. My point was supposed to be about love. Build all the armies in the world, stand for all the causes there are to stand for, dig your heels into democracy, fight the forces that would destroy you–but don’t for a second think that any of that matters if love is not the driving force. Love, mercy, compassion; these trump retribution and revenge. That’s a hard thing to swallow. Retribution and revenge feel like justice. But what justice can there be with eye-for-an-eye mentality? And how can hate be quelled with more hate?
I don’t have a solution to the world’s problems. I don’t think anyone does. But I do know this: if it doesn’t start with the little things we do with, for, and to each other every day, we’ll never be able to conquer hate on the grand scale in which it exists today. I’m not saying this as someone who believes in the bible; I’m saying this as someone who believes this single statement to be the most important thing any of us can ever do: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And your neighbors, as Kierkegaard so astutely noted, are everywhere you see human beings.
If you want to be angry today, that’s fine. But remember what anger leads to and ask yourself: after all these years, all these hateful groups and actions, all the anti-terrorism measures and all the western propaganda–after all that, is anger the best way to stand with Brussels? Is anger the best way to demonstrate the love we have for the people who’ve suffered. Is it the best way to subdue those who would see us suffer?
Tomorrow, goddammit–tomorrow’s post will be fun. Maybe I’ll bring doughnuts. The world could use a few doughnuts these days.