Two Fridays ago on November 13th, Jimmy and I walked into DFW airport ready for an adventure. We had meticulously planned our trip down to each day. Museum passes were bought, hotels booked, trains and planes ready to go. We found our gate and decided to get something to eat before we boarded.
I remember walking past a TV and seeing the news reporting about a shooting at a restaurant in Paris. "How sad and strange," I thought. Those poor people caught up in a senseless act of violence. How strange that something like that happened where Jimmy and I were about to travel to. The incident fell to the recesses of my mind as we ordered dinner and excitedly ate it while talking about our trip. Imagine our surprise when we returned to our gate to see around ten TVs tuned to CNN with the headline reading "BREAKING NEWS!" There, with about one hundred strangers, we all watched in revulsion and disbelief as the events in Paris unraveled. I think at some point I looked at my phone and had a myriad of thoughts. "We should be boarding by now."..."Surely this won't ruin our trip."... "Oh shit, what if this ruins our trip?"... "This is scary." I wish I could tell you that most of my thoughts weren't selfish in that moment. But honestly, they were, and I can't apologize for that. After all, I am human. Of course I felt deep sorrow for the victims and even more so for the loved ones left behind.
As our flight became more and more delayed, and the news showed more and more horror, my feelings waxed and waned between fear and anger. Fear because how does this all end? This "War on Terror," this attempt to subdue and exterminate an enemy who lives in the shadows. How do you conquer an enemy when you don't even know all of their hiding spots? They communicate on the dark web, infiltrate countries, turn neighbors against one another, and instill fear. And you know what? They are good at what they do. What was that other emotion I was dealing with? Right, anger. I think when a person feels helpless, when their choices and actions get made for them, a feeling of despair sets in. Inevitably, despair sometimes turns to anger. In a matter of minutes our flight was canceled and there I was, standing in DFW airport with angry tears streaming down my face. How dare they! How dare these mongrels, these bastards, take away my hard earned vacation. How dare they take away innocent lives for a hateful, deluded cause! How dare they make me feel fear!
As we left the airport and returned home to start working out the process of requesting refunds (we got most everything back, by the way), I started to wonder if this is our new normal. The aftermath of 9/11 was the first time I can remember feeling fear as a child. I was in 8th grade and old enough to know that what happened was bred in hate. I used to love to fly and travel, but now I always have an inkling of apprehension and angst when on an airplane. And yes, I know, I am more likely to die on the way to the airport than on a plane. I wish that helped calm my unease, but it does not always work. And yes, maybe my fear makes me weak, but it is who I am. As the next week unfolded, and the news turned from bleak to bleaker, I watched as the Syrian refugee topic came front and center. I watched as fear and ignorance forced some people to spew forth hatred and racism. I watched as politicians turned away from their constituents at a time when they should have realized that people were afraid and needed solutions. I watched as both Democrats and Republicans used human loss of life and suffering to buffer their campaigns. I watched as my Facebook told me that if I am a Republican, I am basically a racist redneck. I watched as my Facebook told me that if I am a Democrat, I am a reckless hooligan that does not care if Terrorists enter America. I watched as Muslims were targeted. News flash to all the ignoramus': just because someone is a Muslim, does not make them dangerous or a threat. This is the same sort of hateful rhetoric and propaganda that Hitler used to convince a nation to wipe out six million Jews. Basically, I watched as a great nation of people turned on one another when it was time to band together to fight the real danger.
I do not believe we can turn our backs on 10,000 refugees (the amount the government said would be allowed in) that need help. Do I believe that the government needs to be extremely careful and vigilant on the screening of people? Yes. I think you have to be when ISIS has already said they will use refugees to infiltrate nations. Do I think the government needs to come up with a safe way to house these people? Absolutely. It is naive to think that we can just allow that many people in with no plan. I also believe that the American population's safety should come first. Does all of this make me uneasy and a bit scared? Of course. I think you are living under a rock if ISIS doesn't scare you in some way. What is frustrating, is that fear is exactly what ISIS wants. They breathe, live, and plan off of their enemy's fear. My opinion: it is okay to be scared. I think that makes you human. But people, let's use that fear constructively. I could give two shits if you are Democrat or Republican. Let's use our nation of great thinkers and compassionate hearts to do the right thing. Let's turn our fear and anger towards ISIS and away from one another. Let's remember that the majority of us will sit down tomorrow with friends and family to a warm Thanksgiving meal, meanwhile your children are not washing up drowned on beaches. Too harsh? Sorry, that is now the world we live in. A world where fear and war are sniffing at our borders. My great hope is that we can one day destroy it and never live in fear again.
I hope you all have a perfect Thanksgiving!
Until next time,
"If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace." -Franklin D. Roosevelt