If the world had a Facebook account, its relationship status would read, “It’s Complicated.” Unfortunately, my contribution to the dizzying conversation will not magically clear things up.
Mourning is the appropriate response to tragedy, but the proud defiance by ISIS in the most recent attacks in Paris does not allow the world to sit beyond a moment of silence before responding to the ongoing threat. I was traveling when the attacks occurred, and best I could tell, the talking heads apparently agree that the real ISIS threat is its ability to recruit homegrown terrorists everywhere. They emphasized everywhere.
Who is attracted to such a thing? It is far too convenient to ascribe the attraction to abstract “evil.” Evil is easy to condemn and easy to hate, but this is no DC comic book. Further, even calling the tragedies “senseless” is far too easy. The acts, unfortunately, make all too much sense to those who carry them out, and any hope of prevention requires us to seek first to understand. I propose that those attracted to ISIS across the world are people who feel deeply marginalized, outside, silenced, and unimportant in their respective communities, and that any hope of removing the threat at the critical grassroots level requires us to love and respect everyone.
I’m a pretty hopeful guy in general, but this one has me less than chipper.
It is a catch-22 at the top. The powers that be must condemn and respond to terrorist attacks and have a specific responsibility to stop those already plotting violence. That response, however, inevitably fuels those who already feel marginalized by those very powers. ISIS thrives on the strong response its actions generate. We should remember that the next time we celebrate a necessary response.
So, surprisingly, the real, long-term hope for the world is in the hands of its regular citizens. If you want to make the world a safe place beyond a temporary Facebook profile picture, the answer lies not in forming camps by religion, race, sexual orientation, age, or God forbid, political party. In fact, I suggest the exact opposite—that the answer lies in breaking down the social walls that divide us in Everyday World and caring for those who live on the other side.
Division fuels hatred. Reconciliation generates hope. My advice is to seek out the outsiders in your community, including those who may already be angry, bitter souls. Befriend them. Walk beside them. Listen. Care about their cares. That, my friends, is where you and I can make a real difference in this complicated world.