Pray for us
Yesterday, 84 people were killed in Nice. A crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day, many of them children, was run over by large truck filled with explosives. Apparently the truck was driven by an Islamic extremist.
This keeps happening. And it's happening with more frequency and more severity. In the last four weeks alone, we've seen the Orlando shooting that killed 50 people, a bombing in Istanbul that killed 40 something people, the killing of two black civilians by police captured on video, the assassination of six police officers in Dallas, and, most recently, these attacks in France.
When will it stop? What do we do?
Each time something like this happens, we see the usual responses: world leaders make speeches condemning the violence and offering condolences for the victims, and our social media feeds are filled with emotionally-charged status updates and hashtags.
#prayfornice #prayfororlando #prayfor... whatever comes next.
It's hard to know how to react. What can we do? Get angry or feel sad, and post something on Facebook?
Some people, understandably, are angered by the calls for prayer. They say, "What are all these prayers doing, anyway? We need action."
I agree that we need action, but I don't think it's right to tell people to stop praying. Prayers are thoughts and thoughts are powerful. If we're not thinking about it, then it's for sure that nothing will change.
A Facebook friend of mine wrote something to the effect of, "Prayers are the problem because religion is the problem."
I don't agree. I think religion for extremists is a symptom; it's not a root cause.
My guess is that this happens because there have been generations who've grown up with poverty and lack of education. That leads to anger and ignorance, which leads to violence. This sets up a positive feedback loop. More violence means more anger and more poverty. More poverty means less education which means it's hard for people to see things rationally; they blindly believe the stories they are told and go through life in ignorance. Hence religion as rationalization for extremist behavior.
But the fact is, I have only a vague idea of why this happens. It's such a complex problem, and to be honest, I've done little to understand it. To be honest, it's something I'd rather ignore and hope goes away on its own. Unfortunately, that's not how things work.
I can't imagine how difficult it must be for the people who have had loved ones sensely murdered. It must be the most awful thing. I know how lucky and privileged I am to be able to view all of this from the outside, largely in abstract.
I think the only way to solve this in the long term is not more wars or more guns or more hate. It's understanding and compassion. Some of these extremists are crazy, all of them have been brainwashed, and many of them probably felt like they had no other choice. If they grew up with my life, would they still be killing people? Who knows for sure, but think the answer is no. Conversely, if I grew up in their life, where would I be right now?
What is at the root of all this? What is really motivating these people?
If the places that breed extremists had more education, a feeling of safety and opportunity, and all the rest of it, would these attacks still be happening?
I don't know the answers but I want to find out.
Right now all I can say is, "Pray for Nice. Pray for all of us."