After this latest terrorist attack — each, it seems, more horrific than the last — the phrase “the new normal” is now cropping up. What does that mean, I wonder? Does that mean we’ll stop being horrified? That we will sink into a passive, accepting state and say, Well, we just have to live side by side with evil? This morning I sat in a waiting room while my car was being serviced. Five other people were there and CNN was on the television with chilling reports about the 18 ton truck ploughing through a crowd of people in Nice, about the driver shooting while he zig-zagged, headlights turned off, to ensure the maximum amount of carnage. Only I and one other woman paid attention to the report. Two others were texting or e-mailing on their cell phones, an elderly woman had her book up so close to her face I thought she’s either excruciatingly nearsighted or absolutely determined to block out this news. It’s not as if it happened a week ago and the news is repetitive — it only happened yesterday. Sadly, I thought, this could be a microcosm of our world now — blocking out yet another attack, another horror, sinking into a resigned state, deciding there is nothing we can do about it so why even pay attention.
I’m waiting for the next phrase that always comes up — ‘We won’t give into fear.’ Really? I find this incredulous and so wrong on so many levels. The sentence that usually follows is, ‘Then the terrorists will win.’ Evil wins out when people are in denial. And to say we aren’t afraid is to deny the truth of where we are at collectively right now.
We are terrified. We’re angry and we’re heartbroken. And while it’s true that fear can paralyze and weaken, it can also galvanize people to rise above their fears and remember that time and again historically good has won out over evil. Light has driven out darkness. But that can only happen if the darkness is looked at unflinchingly, and the terror it creates is acknowledged. Otherwise, we are just masses of people in denial using phrases like “the new normal” when referring to the worst atrocities that human beings are capable of. Fear only weakens us if we don’t acknowledge it; then it festers and eats away at us, concealed in the shadows. To admit that we are scared is to own the fact that we’re human — we have hearts and minds and souls and we don’t understand how anyone can deaden themselves to such a degree that they’re capable of the bloodthirsty savagery we’re witnessing now.
Refusing to own up to our fear doesn’t make us stronger, it makes us weaker. Owning how we truly feel is what can give us clarity at a time when we desperately need it. There is more good on this earth than evil — I believe that. Those who are evil won’t win because we’re afraid; they’ll win if we are silent.