“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today we here in Tucson AZ mark the 4-year anniversary of the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and those visiting with her at our local Safeway – resulting in 6 deaths, including a 9-year-old girl, and a brain injury for Gabby that almost cost her life and most certainly ended her career on Congress. Could it only have been 4 years? There has been so much tragedy since; it feels like much longer ago.
This was a traumatic event of course for our entire community, but it also brought us all closer together. We had heroes to thank who risked their lives and university surgeons to be grateful for as we stood vigil outside the hospital, and we felt the love of the entire country, all political parties, there with us as well. We sang and prayed and lit candles and left flowers and notes and hugged and closed ranks. We were ONE. As happened in New York City on 911 and Oklahoma City a few years earlier and after the Newtown CT and Littleton and Aurora shootings and after the 2011 Norway massacre…most people everywhere abhor murder, do not believe differences of faith or political party ever justifies violence and grieve deeply for its victims.
After the tragic attack yesterday on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, we are grieving for the victims, and we also take in the callous actions of these murderers as an attack on one of the very foundations of democracy, Free Speech. This leaves us vulnerable, as perhaps was intended, to allowing further tragedy to build on tragedy.
In this case instead of the murderer being a deranged young man who thought he was attacking a woman who he thought didn’t use her power properly, the murderers yesterday claimed they were acting to avenge the prophet Mohamed against people they thought abused the power of their pens. The attacks have been derided by Muslim leaders around the world as NOT in the name of Islam.
There have been and are murderous zealots of every major religion, including Christianity, even Buddhism I was amazed to learn years back, who misinterpret and twist the words of their holy books into a justification for murder “in the name of” their faith. The direct victims of their deranged acting out are obvious – the ones who were killed or injured and their families and loved ones.
But other victims include everyone who looks like the murderer or shares their beliefs.
Now the fear and hate of the people who perpetrated the crimes gets transferred to innocent others who just “look dangerous” because we associate them with the crime. That’s how all these African American young men have been mown down by police or vigilantes, for instance. Someone thinks African American youth “look dangerous” merely because of the color of their skin. Muslims “look dangerous” to some people because of their faith and their way of dressing.
We are a tribal species and so ordinary, good people then look at all (Evangelical Christians, Black People, Latinos, Police, Germans, Muslims, Hindus, Americans, etc.) with fear in their hearts. Instead of seeing neighbors and well-meaning people trying to get by, just like themselves, people “like the murderers” become feared and shunned.
Where there is such fear, often people who stand to gain power or wealth through conflict fan the flames of fear, turning it to “outrage” and then into hate and then violence towards people “like the murderer.” This group of people (who “look like the murderer) now erects a similar barrier towards everyone who looks like the new group of haters and it goes on and on even into global warfare as we have often seen, until something BREAKS the cycle.
Terrorists of every persuasion put at risk everyone of their religion, race or persuasion who is not a murderer like them. In the US after the 911 attacks, and in Europe recently, all Muslims have become the scapegoat for “what’s wrong.” The murders yesterday fanned the flames of that fear and now this already morning innocent European Muslims have been attacked for nothing they did and live in increased fear.
We humans are very loyal to our tribes and it’s way too easy to convince us our tribe is in peril from other people – instead of seeing the hate itself as the peril. Quite possibly that is the back-story of these murderers themselves.
And so my plea today is that we not conclude that Islam is somehow at fault for these murders or even the horrors being committed on Middle Eastern battlefields, remembering that we ourselves have seen plenty of atrocities committed by people who look or believe or claim the same nationality or skin color as we do. Islam and Christianity are brothers, both born of Judaism and all 3 preach love and the Golden Rule.
Let us take a stand for Love. Let us fan the flame of Love and understanding in whatever way is open to us because #all lives matter.