The terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris happened two days ago (and in Beirut 3 days ago). I look around social media and everyone is covering their profile pictures with a French flag filter (never the Lebanese flag though), sharing posts and debating politics. I however, have remained silent so far.
One right wing friends has asked, “Where are all the liberals? Why are the liberals so quiet?” While I don’t give myself the label ‘liberal’ I do have progressive, left wing views so I imagine to them it’s all the same. I have also often been called a bleeding heart, usually with sneers and derision, but that is a label I will proudly take. When I think of many of my favourite historical figures-Jesus, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Tommy Douglas, Jack Layton, I am sure they too would have been accused of being a bleeding heart. Whereas Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, ISIS…..not so much.
Being a bleeding heart means I feel things deeply. It means I choose to be aware of the suffering, pain and injustice in our world. It means I choose to imagine myself in another human being’s situation. It means I care more about what is going on in the world than celebrities, sports or reality TV. Being a bleeding heart does not mean I let feelings alone influence my decisions and beliefs. Unfortunately, I am also a ‘big picture’ person. I usually see the big picture, see things from different angles and sides, analyze various positions and all possible outcomes. Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass…..
So, why are some ‘liberals’ so quiet right now? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have been so quiet because my heart is bleeding and breaking. I am completely consumed with sadness for our world and for human beings. I am looking at the big picture, and to perfectly honest, although I am generally an optimistic person, today I see no hope…….and that makes my heart bleed more.
I awoke yesterday thinking, ‘What would Martin Luther King say?’ No epiphany came to me. I kept thinking, ‘We need a great leader’ ‘We need someone so filled with goodness and love to lead the way’. Unfortunately, the only answer that came to me was ‘If you can’t find one, be one’. I won’t lie to you, the first response I thought to that was ‘Damn, that’s a lot of hard work……plus King was assassinated.’
I see others giving their opinions about what needs to be done. They say we need to annihilate ISIS. I don’t disagree. They say Prime Minister Trudeau is an idiot if he goes forward with bringing in 25 000 refugees from Syria. I disagree, but I do hope the utmost care is taken in security background checks on these people. They say we shouldn’t help refugees when we have our own homeless, our own child poverty and veterans who are not receiving the care they should. I say, why weren’t you speaking out on those issues last month, last year? Why hasn’t our government done anything to solve those problems in the last month, year or decade? I also know that I can care about more than one thing. I can volunteer for more than one organization. I’m not arrogant enough to think I can care about more than one issue but our government can’t.
Finally, they say that their violence needs to be met with violence. Yet people much wiser than me have often said violence begets violence
‘I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent’-Mahatma Gandi
‘Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that’-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Even in the Bible, Mathew 26:52
‘Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’
So what are we to do? I am certainly not suggesting that we hold hands with ISIS and sing Kumbaya……
But maybe we can stop giving them so much control. Maybe we can refuse to give them the satisfaction of making us an angry, hateful, fearful group of people. Maybe instead of judging all Muslims by the actions of a few we can be a little more discerning. We can judge people on the content of their character. Maybe we can lead by example. If we are kind to the refugees who will come to our country maybe the kindness we give will grow and blossom.
Think about how much anger, hostility and hatred there is right now for Muslims and for the Syrian refugees by many in our beautiful country of Canada.
Now think about your childhood. Think about your parents going to work. Think about your three square meals a day. Think about your free education. Think about going to the doctor or hospital any time you were sick. Think about the peace you have known in your life
Now think for a moment about a refugee child fleeing Syria-Never knowing peace, surrounded by violence, fleeing their country and risking their life because that is the safest thing to do, going without food, adequate clothing, healthcare, education. Imagine people on the other side of the world hating you, fearing you, not caring if you live or die because of the colour of your skin, the religion you were born into, or the country you happened to be born in.
By all accounts most of us have had a pretty decent life in Canada, yet still we succumb to anger, fear, and hate. What do you suppose happens to some of these refugee children as they grow up if they are discarded right now as nothing more than garbage? If they are forced starve, get no education and have no hope for their future. Will we be shocked when they grow up to be terrorists? Will we again lament about the state of the world? Will we actually step up and accept our responsibility in the cycle?
In a strange twist, as much as I am a left-wing bleeding heart, I am also a fan of Ayn Rand. And I can’t help think about her mantra of rational self-interest. What is in the rational self-interest of the world? Of human beings? Not just for today, or next year, but a generation or two from now. What can we do now to prevent another ISIS from growing in the future?
I honestly hope ISIS is destroyed, much the same way the Nazis were destroyed. But I do hope in the process we don’t lose sight of the humanity in the human beings in all parts of the world that are also being terrorized by ISIS today. ISIS is not a western problem, they are not a problem for only white people, and they are not a problem for only Christian people. ISIS is terrorizing people of all colours, all religions and in most regions of the world. Most reports say the people they terrorize the most are other Muslims. Most of these people have a lot less power than we in Canada do. What will we do with the power we have?
As writer I hoped trying to write out my feelings would help lessen the sadness I feel. I hoped it would help me make some sense out of this messed up world we live in. I hoped that I would see a glimmer of light in the darkness, but my heart still bleeds, I am consumed with sadness, I see only the dark and I still feel hopeless about the fate of our world.