I haven’t had any problem expressing my outrage and my pain with the terrorist attacks in Paris, France earlier this week. I put the news on for the first time in two months. I needed to see what was happening thousands of miles away but in a place I’ve thought often about. My thoughts went to my friends who live there, to my son’s school visits to Paris in recent years. I have been struggling with the outward expression of solidarity however. As the French flags went up on Facebook profiles, I knew I didn’t want one, but I didn’t really know why. My friend put it into words when he removed his transparency from his profile pic. Here we are supporting France (as we should be) when we ignored the same type of attack in Beirut this week, ignoring Kenya’s terrorist attack at the beginning of the month, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
Many people cite racism. The French are white Europeans and not Middle Eastern Arabs, but that’s not my thinking or the thinking of my friends, so why do the majority of us focus on their pain?
For many Americans, myself included, France is our friend. Of course, we’re upset at the tragedy befalling others, but we know France. France has been our friend since the literal beginning. They helped us become who we are, not like a parent, but more like a favorite and favored uncle. That doesn’t mean that Great Uncle Al, twice removed and divorced from the family isn’t thought about and cared about and mourned when he dies, but he’s not Dad’s brother. Dad’s brother has picked me up and patched up my skinned knees. He’s taken care of me, and he’s always there when I call. It’s not the homoethnicity as much as the familial relationship that we have with the French people.
In addition to that, I mentioned that my son has been to Paris. Twice. I imagine how I would have felt if he were there at this time and it tears me up. I have put myself in the places of the Syrian refugees and Arab victims and I’ve cried and felt pain and received courage from them but my family…
Since I wasn’t able to attend Sunday Mass this week (I hurt my leg and couldn’t manage the walking), I still read the readings, and one of them spoke to me about this tragedy and unrest in the world.
In my life, the readings and the Scripture and my spiritual headspace includes everyone; it is a part of my everyday life. I live it. It is a Living Word.
From today’s Readings in the Entrance Antiphon:
The Lord said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. You will call upon me, and I will answer you, and I will lead back your captives from every place.
– Jer 29:11, 12, 14
This stuck with me throughout the morning, and regardless of your religious affiliation or no affiliation we can still think on and want and hope for peace and for affliction to be gone, in my life, in my family, in my world.
G-d promises to listen and answer and lead back those of us who are ‘captive’, missing, stuck in situations not of their making; to help them escape, like Moses leading the Jewish people out of Egypt and out of slavery.
Non-religious people have their own beliefs and hopes for peace and ending conflict and affliction and bringing those ‘captives’ back home.
‘But take it, believe it and keep yourself within it, comfort yourself with it and trust yourself to it; and you shall not be overcome.’
You shall not be overcome.
We have the strength to get through these tough times and any other tough times that are yet to come. G-d is speaking through her, and her visions – she is not alone in her world, and similarly we are not alone. We are surrounded by people who are on our side and want to and will help us through the hard times and celebrate the good ones.
As I said about prayer earlier today, prayer builds up, and doesn’t tear down. That doesn’t mean that prayer is the only way. Embrace all the ways people want to help, through spirituality or through humanity, and we will be better for it.