The events of November 13th have awakened our passion for easy outs.
Amid grief, war cries, opinions, and calls to action, there is an implicit sense that the division between good and bad, guilty and innocent is clear.
This is part and parcel of the reactionary tendency that now threatens us and that inhibits our ability to consider matters comprehensively, despite their consequence and importance.
More to the point, social media sites are rife in information from dubious sources. Now there are floods of fearful images, of spiteful words, and of disdainful policy advisements that all spread a message that strengthens ISIS’s mission and only serves to inject venom deep into the hearts of alienated and vilified Muslims everywhere.
We, as everyday citizens, have diminished powers of influence on an international scale, yet we have great power in our immediate spaces. We can convince ourselves that politicians are somewhat beholden to us, but the fact is, they are going to make decisions and give explanations later. This leaves us with the burden of their actions and the burden of our own.
I roil against the assumption that our opinions are not engines of change. As people connected to other people online, pumping information into news feeds, we must take a stance and act on it.
But before acting we should make sure our stance is well-informed, that it is dispassionate, and that it is a cross we will bear earnestly.
So, the question arises: How can we make the best of our power?
We can dig deep and realize that our initial reactions to tragedy probably aren’t the best ones.
We can appreciate the power of words, because we often forget that words target people and that they can touch the lives of others. We should measure them accordingly.
We can look around and notice that online and offline are not worlds disconnected from each other. Our opinions should be well-rounded, especially if we intend to suggest next steps or to point fingers at real human beings. We can read about what is going on from as many perspectives as possible and not limit ourselves to headlines and bullet points, or to what appears on our Facebook news feeds.
We can swap places. Who will our words affect? How would we feel if we were on the other end of them?
We can think again. Before we post, speak, write, repost, we should make sure that we fully agree with what we are posting, based on our analysis of the situation.
Remember, we are engines for change: make sure the changes you are helping promote are ones you can stand behind proudly. We have reached a critical point in our history when participation has taken on a whole new meaning.
No one wants to say it, but I believe there is a world war underway. Our recent past is a symptom of on-going strife, of oppression, of broken promises, of bloodshed. This is the stuff that war is made of.
In the wake of possible global turmoil, I urge each person to give the best of themselves.
I may disagree with your stance, but if you have considered your opinion, if you have measured your words, if you have accepted the reality of your calls to action, then we can move forward with the assurance that we respect the gravity of the future that confronts us.