I was in Paris just this summer, a city I deliberately chose for my first step into Europe. I met people who live in Paris, and they have now lost people in Paris. This is a time when no words suffice.
It is part of the human condition to have our hearts break more when it hits closer to us. We love what we know, we grieve over what we love. Perhaps it is more poignant because I know I could have been there. Anyone I know could have been there. Paris is a city where many of my people jet in and out of.
I hesitated on writing what comes next because I want to be sensitive to the grief taking place. But I want to be a person capable of asking honest questions, even if it hurts and it comes with fear.
We grieve over that we love, and we cannot love what we do not know. That makes the loss of human lives in other places, or the loss of human dignity and potential, more difficult for us to relate to. I cannot grieve for Paris alone.
As long as inequality exists, violence will exist. It may be Paris yesterday, somewhere else tomorrow, everyday in between, mass violence is taking place in many parts of the lesser known world. We blame it on religious wars or political greed, but when massive numbers of people are deprived of food, shelter, safety and knowledge, there can only be a few possible outcomes. We can annihilate one terrorist group, but it didn’t seem far away in history that we wiped out another. What is stopping one more from forming?
This is no longer a world where we can exist in silos anymore. The violence (and not only physical violence) taking place in some distant land will eventually find its way to us, be it hurting us directly, or indirectly through what we love. We are an interconnected world – someone else’s pain will become our pain, it is not at our own choosing.
It is difficult at this point in time to see how this retaliation cycle will end, how this world will one day be capable of healing together. If we really want to start pointing fingers, we have to go all the way back through thousands of years in history. How can we not feel powerless at an individual level?
This makes me want to participate in more conscious acts of love and grace, for that is my act of rebellion against a world that wants us to live in fear and separation. When some of us tries to make the world a darker place, we have to light it up more in return.
Today, I had plans to write something else, and it would have been easier to avoid a subject that provokes so much complexity. But it would have been hypocritical of me.
“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
– Warsan Shire