WE ARE NOT AFRAID
Hours after the terrorist attacks in Paris, someone on Facebook posted the photo of a dense crowd in Paris following the massacre at Charlie Hebdo back in January. The rallying cry, and the biggest sign hoisted into the air said ‘Not Afraid.’ It’s what we said after 9/11 too. And what the French are saying now after an unprecedented and chillingly organized slaughter of innocent civilians. We won’t be afraid…we aren’t afraid…if we’re afraid, then they win.
Except we are afraid. And I’m not sure that owning and acknowledging our fear translates to a win for the terrorists. We’re afraid, we’re grief-stricken, we’re numb with shock that human beings are capable of this, we’re heartbroken and more than a little lost…all things that the terrorists don’t feel. I don’t know how people can amputate their souls, deaden their hearts, convince themselves that mass slaughter is their purpose here on earth. But that soullessness, that deadening of the heart, is the only way someone can coldly and deliberately mow down other human beings. Our victory is in being nothing like that. Our victory is in feeling everything they don’t feel, including fear.
There is a difference between feeling fear and letting it paralyze us. I think the only way to ensure that it doesn’t paralyze us is to acknowledge it, to say Of course we’re frightened. How could we not be? Within that acceptance are the seeds of our greatest strength — the faith that darkness and hatred won’t win. Einstein said, “The problems of the world will not be solved from the same level of thinking that created them.” For us to remember that our souls, our hearts, are rich with emotion means that we are engaged in what it is to be human — sometimes achingly so. Sometimes with fear snaking through us. But by owning all our emotions, including fear, we are more alive and more powerful than the people who choose carnage as their legacy. We are, quite literally, living on a different level of thinking.
Our fear is a testament to our humanity. And our faith, in these increasingly dark times, has to be that humanity will win in the end.