Thoughts on Paris and Beirut

I, like everyone, have seen and wept over the horrors that took place in Paris just the other night. I love Paris. I visited Paris in 2005 and I’ve been clamoring to go back ever since. Paris is truly the city light. Not only does the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night casting a magical glow over the city, but the city itself lights you up inside. I was moved again and again by the art and beauty that I saw everywhere I looked. Je t’aime, Paris. Vous etes la magie.

The world is not the same place as it was in 2005. But I’d be willing to bet that Paris is the same, even now.

But the truth is, Paris is not the only city that is suffering. The people of Beirut are suffering. And so many others. Hearing of the man who sacrificed himself to save so many made me sob. My heart hurts for his family and for all of Beirut.

I’ve been moved by the outpouring of love and solidarity for Paris and Beirut. I’ve been horrified and disgusted by those who choose this moment to spew more anti-Islam rhetoric. Supposedly, one of the attackers was a refugee and had a Syrian passport. While I don’t know the whole story there, I’m not sure anyone does yet, I’m sure that these poor refugees are not the problem.

Imagine, for a moment, what they are running from. Isis. They are running from Isis. They aren’t leaving their comfortable homes where they sit and watch Daniel Tiger with their children on Sunday mornings to terrorize Europe. They are leaving because making a treacherous journey that risks their lives and the lives of their precious children because this journey and moving into the complete unknown is safer than staying. We Americans, for the most part, can’t imagine this because we are lucky. But our forefathers would be appalled and disappointed at what we’ve become. Our ancestors who left starvation and horrifying conditions that we can’t even imagine to take a boat trip that took months in equally horrible conditions to make new lives for their families. Because they had hope for a better life. Just the same as those fleeing Syria.

Every morning, I listen to BBC world news. They have done a truly excellent job covering the refugee crisis. I’ve cried nearly every day over their coverage. A twelve year old girl, who spoke with the wisdom of a forty year old woman, was making the journey by herself. I heard the uncle of the tiny drowned boy that gave a face to the refugees begging us to remember the boy as he lived and not as he died. These are people, just like us. They are not part of a massive plot meant to terrorize the world.

I hope I’m singing to the choir here, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a lot of Muslims. I’ve had Muslim classmates, friends, and teachers and this violence and terror is not who they are. We cannot define an entire religion based on the actions of a few. The same is true of Christianity. And Judaism. The worst violence the world has ever seen has been carried out in the name of religion. It is sad, but true. But it doesn’t define every person in a religion. It’s more important than ever to remember that.

On Saturday, my husband and kids were at the supermarket. My husband is Indian and our children are biracial. We have (sadly) experienced racism before so Husband was a little on the defensive when a guy came up to him and asked where he was from.

“I’m Indian,” he replied because he knew the guy was really asking what race he was.

The man let out a sigh of relief. “Your family is okay then?”

Husband realized then what he was asking and he said, “Yes. Everyone is safe.”

“Thank goodness,” the man said and shook Husband’s hand.

I was so moved by this. It could have easily gone another way. But there are still people out there looking out for each other. It just made my heart feel a little better.

I don’t know what the solution to any of this is. But Gabby Bernstein always says “when you feel helpless, help someone.” Mother Theresa said, “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” So I guess that’s the best solution I have. Let’s help each other. Let’s not let the darkness win. Be the light and the light will spread.

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