I have had difficultly finding anything to write about since the Paris attacks a few weeks ago. We were on an amazing road trip (sans baby!), and I had some ideas of what to write about. “Ohh look! Here is a picture of something I ate! How interesting!” But then Paris happened. And then the Planned Parenthood shooting. Then San Bernardino. Then calls to ban Muslims and refugees. The list could on go . . . I was on vacation a mere month ago.
I wonder how other people process these events. I don’t have sufficient defense mechanisms to cope with them. If I let them, the stories will haunt me and I can’t shake them. They also terrify me, not so much for my own safety, but for my child’s safety. What will the world be like when she comes of age? One of my friends said she hoped that when we talk to our children in 10 or 15 years, we will be able to tell them how awful it was when they were too young to remember. Mass shootings on a near daily basis. Terrorism. Refugee crisis. Melting ice caps. But something changed. Good overcame evil, and the world they live in is immeasurably better than the world we lived in back then.
But I fear that is probably not true. Like my Dad said, humans have been committing horrors against other humans since time immemorial. But doesn’t it seem to be getting worse? It does to me. Instead of living in fear, though, I am trying out some new things. I’m trying to be the change I want to see in the world. Yes, I just wrote that. Please someone, beat my ass for uttering such a thing. But like for real, that is what I’m trying to do.
First, I am giving all of my fears to God. I do this from time to time, but now I am trying to do it on a regular basis. If I start ruminating on some awful thing I heard on the news, I try to immediately pray for those affected and pray that God will help me quit panicking about it. Obsessing about it. And He does. God is so faithful like that. If I ask for help, He helps. Its an amazing and beautiful thing. It is hard for me to do, too. I consider myself a control freak, and one of the ways I try to control things is by imagining every awful and horrific tragedy that may befall me. The reasoning? I will never be caught off guard. Example: I’m on vacation but the ski lift malfunctioned and everyone fell to their deaths. Because of my incessant worrying my response could be, “OH HA HA HA NICE TRY BUT I ALREADY WORRIED ABOUT THIS THE ENTIRE VACATION AND I’M NOT EVEN SURPRISED I DIED.”
See? I AM IN CONTROL.
Its complete fucking nonsense. Because inevitably, tragedy will happen. But I will have wasted precious and fleeting time with my loved ones, worrying. God helps me with that. All I have to do is ask.
Second, I’m trying to educate myself. For a long while, I would ignore the news because it is full of depressing information and/or the most horrific gore story the news outlets can drum up. A few days ago, a young man was killed in a wood chipper. The internet went insane. Top-trender on Facebook. Jokes were flying after a leg was found in the Arkansas river. The more horrific, the better. Our culture is so desensitized by this continuous onslaught of horror that we have lost our empathy. Our humanity.
But to my point, I am trying to educate myself by spending time each day reading credible news sources. I’m trying to learn about the conflicts in the Middle East. Gun control. The Paris climate talks. Anything. I am also devoting time to learning about the Muslim faith because I don’t know anything about it. Most of what I know comes from a story about the latest terror attack by people claiming to be Muslim. If I feel disdain and disgust toward the Islamophobic rhetoric flying around, then I should know why from a Muslim perspective this rhetoric is so wrong and the terrorists claiming to be Muslim are phonies.
After the Paris attacks, I saw a comic of a man sitting in a chair, watching the news. The TV anchor asked the audience what could be done to lessen the fear of terrorism. And in response the man turned off the TV. There is a lot of truth to this. The news outlets (and their eager consumers), thrive on gore, horror, and derision. But I can’t just bury my head in the sand anymore. As a Christian, I think I am called to ask for God’s mercy and His help each day. I can’t do this alone. None of us can. And at the same time, I can’t just be fatalistic, and resign myself to the fact that evil will be done, as it has always been done, until God intervenes. These times require that I put effort into learning about what is happening in the world, in the hope that the more I know, the more I can understand, and the less I will fear. And maybe, the more I can help.
Maybe if we took control of our fear, we could someday tell our grown babies “yeah, it used to be really bad, but then people got smarter. We started focusing less on the latest horror story (Don’t report on it unless I can see blood!), and more on the human story. We learned from and about others. And they stopped being so scary (they even stopped being others). We stopped being so afraid of each other, and brought evil and ignorance, which so often go together, out into the open. It was bad but it got better. Immeasurably better, my dear one.”