When Paris was attacked on Friday November 13, we felt it— all of us.
For some it was a punch in the stomach, so hard and fast that the urge to vomit was almost unbearable.
For others it came as a heavy weight that bore down on our hearts slowly, persistently, unrelentingly. Still others felt it as a knife in the back, springing from nowhere, making our pulses quicken and our eyes fill with tears.
Paris, the city of love and light had, in one instant, been clouded with hate and darkness.
If we’d been listening we would have known that there have been many other horror stories recently.
The bombings in Beirut, the plane crash in Egypt,the stabbings in Israel, the massacres in Nigeria and Kenya. If we’d have paid attention, we would have understood that darkness does not strike in a flash, but comes creeping up along the edges of the world, covering the places we don’t speak of, don’t hear of, don’t mention.
If we would have watched we would have seen the millions of refugees running for their lives, away from the darkness, towards the light that a few, kind hands have held out to them.
And now our facebook pages are dripping with blue white and red and our hearts are pouring out prayers of love and our mouths are crying for peace and safety.
And yes, these are all ways to fight the external darkness that is ravaging our world. But, there is another darkness. A darkness so insidious it threatens to divide us from the very people who need our help the most, a darkness that turns our prayers for love into daggers of hate and our cries for peace into bloodthirsty howls.
This darkness manifests itself in memes calling for the death of refugees, in the increase of hate crime against Muslims, in the fear I see in my friend’s eyes as she tells me her son has been harassed because his skin is “the color of terrorists”
Division is a natural response to fear. It feels safe to put up walls between us and our enemies, to label the good guys and the bad guys. And, yes.. there is a real enemy in our midst. An enemy that will likely require more than just prayers and rhetoric to be defeated.But sweeping this label of enemy over the entire Muslim world, over our neighbors and friends, over innocent children and impoverished refugees, over men and women and children who are, like us, terrified and heartbroken, serves only to push more people towards the darkness.
On the Statue of Liberty, a gift from our dear ally France, are carved these words:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
We need to lift those lamps now. To shine them on our would-be allies. To allow peace loving people of any skin color or religion to know that they will always have a home with us. For those who cannot find shelter in the light, take respite in the darkness.