“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” -Kevyn Aucoin
I lieu of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, along with the other mass tragedies that have occurred in the past few months I’d like to address the topic of travel safety. I don’t mean, “hide your valuables” or “don’t get plastered and walk down a dark alley”. More so, I’m confronting the idea of terrorism and other atrocities that too often target innocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A few nights ago I sat down for dinner with my parents (who are graciously housing me for 3 months). We are a pretty conventional family and very rarely have the television on during dinner, but tonight was different because Paris had just been attacked. We all sat there in silence while the account of what happened was disclosed by the news team. After all the brutality with Beruit and Kenya and countless other attacks I didn’t know whether to cry, vomit or hit something. I was outraged and deeply saddened. I vividly remember my father just shaking his head and saying “We’ve left you with a dangerous world, my girl.”
And he is absolutely right. You can’t even go into a classroom these days without the threat of someone entering the school with a gun. But I don’t believe that danger is the problem. In my mind it’s the fear, in which terrorism and danger generated, that will have the most tragic outcome. And then they win, the bad guys’ win.
I’ve had thoughts about giving up traveling because of all the violence, but now that it’s penetrating the western world, my home, I can’t escape it. I don’t win if I sit at home curled up in a corner. That’s not living, at least it’s not the life I want. I want to explore and learn and leave behind a legacy of courage and hope. I can’t do that from behind the confines of walls or borders. And to be frank with you, the United States is hardly safe- the U.S. has had more mass shootings than anywhere else in the world.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Every time I hear a loud plane roar through the skies of Seattle my heart speeds up as my mind immediately jumps to images of the Twin Towers. Or when I see someone anxiously glancing about in a crowded stadium or subway station I instantly start to analyze my surroundings for an escape route. Before now, violence and terrorism has been something so far from my own reality that I never felt particularly threatened. But that fear is going to be there regardless of where I am. There are mountains to conquer and people to meet; foods to eat and sights to see. I’m not giving that up.
Now, I’d never encourage anyone to knowingly put themselves into a potentially lethal situation. But I do encourage you to take a risk. Just like you might decide to go skydiving. You do a little investigating, you weigh the risk vs. reward and then you say “yes”. So why not say yes to traveling? Do your research, and just like you wouldn’t go skydiving out of a plane that was duct-taped together, you might not want to go to a city that is known for air raids and kidnapping. But say “yes” to something, somewhere.
Along these same lines, please don’t be naive or hold prejudice. You know better than to believe that everyone in the middle east is willing to kill in the name of their religion, just like you know that most students in the U.S. wouldn’t open fire on their classmates. There are a handful of really awful people in the world, but that’s not a reflection of the rest of us. So go, go to Iraq and go to Mexico; go to Paris and go to Uganda. Just go.
I beg of you… please don’t lose faith in humanity. The power of violence and prejudice is strong, but the capacity of love and community is even stronger. The closer we band together and exude acceptance and joy, the more we will push away the brutality and pain. Find the strength somewhere, from whichever God you believe in or whatever gives you hope, to move forward with courage and intention.
And go see the beautiful world.
May the families and loved one’s of those whose lives were tragically taken, find solace and peace. The world stands by you, for we are one.