After Paris

I had no words and could not write for a week.  But the words have finally found me and here they are:

The media coverage of the Paris attacks brought home to me how far these extremists will go. My amazing diverse, international FB friends helped expand my knowledge a bit more about what has been happening in other parts of the world. Sadly, I’m still dreadfully under-educated about this, but I am trying to grasp the complexity of it and endeavouring to develop an appropriate strategy to contribute meaningfully to the conversation and the war. Because, yes, this is war.

While I didn’t feel comfortable changing my FB cover photo to reflect Paris or the French flag precisely because I felt deeply that there were countless others to sympathize with, I also recognize why there was a more natural tendency for us to react so strongly to Paris’ attack.

Paris represents our own international, busy, tourist-filled, diverse, multi-cultural, safe-ish, happy, innocent metropolis… Our Toronto or London or New York or Hong Kong or Tokyo. It’s a romantic destination! So many of us have dreamed of visiting or have already made that once in a life time trip. We’ve grown up seeing its famous landmarks in our favourite movies. Who hasn’t seen an imagine of young lovers kissing with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop?

It’s no wonder that the unexpected violence there elicited such strong emotional outpouring of love and shock. It was designed to.

Please let’s not judge negatively everyone who have responded that way. It’s natural. And it’s not intended as disrespect to the events happening in ‘lessor known, less understood’ parts of the world. We are woefully more ignorant of what’s been happening than we should be. “We don’t know what we don’t know.” But hopefully we have become more aware now.

Let’s take the opportunity to educate ourselves and others about what is really happening. I need your help, my friends, to continue to share the perspectives, the stories, the photos, the analyses, the pain, the hopes, the heroism and the way forward.

Let us make no mistake, war was declared in a big way. Innocent bystanders have been thrown in the mix. All our ‘safe from a distance’ cities are vulnerable. Our planes, schools, churches, mosques, restaurants, malls and stadiums have been brought into the deadly war zone. Strict security measures, whether warranted or not, whether impactful or not, will be implemented, enforced and inflected on all of us. We will be asked to give up our freedoms and privacy to help “make it safer” for us all. 99.9999% of us will be subjected to useless token safety rules like taking off our shoes… Worse yet, it will become infinitely harder for those escaping from that insanity to find safety and hospitality here, where they are seeking refuge. Even worse, our very own neighbours and friends will be experiencing misplaced bigotry, targeted for having something in common with the ones whose goals are to divide us all.

It’s a first world problem that we only now have the slightest inkling of the challenges, fears, pain and understanding of our fellow human beings who live with extremists in their midst on a daily basis.

So what next? Conversation? Education? Debate? Understanding? Empathy? Love? No human left behind? No room for bullying?

What do we do on a daily basis to be on the right side of this insane War that none of us want?

Many of us have the luxury of being able to turn a blind eye to it all. Some of us need to carry on in our daily lives to stay sane. Quite a few have always been sharing with us the indignities happening around the world. Some will show us how we can help. A lot of us will be able to find the learning opportunities embedded in all the tragedies.

And… heroes will emerge who have been inspired to change the world. They know what needs to be done and they have no qualms about risking it all to do it.

Will you join me in enabling the heroes? We need them. We need you. We need us.