At least 49 people are dead following a terrorist attack on two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attack took place during Friday prayer and was live-streamed by one of the gunmen.
At least 49 people are dead.
Words fail me on days like today. The horror is simply too much to process; the hate too much to fathom. It seems unbelievable that such a thing could happen; yet the news is sadly unsurprising given the global rise of vicious and xenophobic rhetoric. Perhaps it was only a matter of time.
Nothing I can say or do will bring them back; nothing can undo what has been done. This isn’t some shining Hollywood movie; there’s no loophole to undo the past. This is, I’m afraid, simply the world we all live in now.
All I can do — all any of us can do — is to bear witness and to…to try to do better for tomorrow than we have done for today. To not use this moment of shock and grief to comfort ourselves before moving on with our lives, but to really think deeply and carefully about how our daily actions, inactions, and interactions shape this shared world we all live in.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Series, but I can’t help thinking that these violent eruptions of horror should not be taken as isolated, random incidents, but are better interpreted as periodic expressions of the hate that’s been steadily building all along.
These attacks don’t come from nowhere and they aren’t the product of a single, deranged mind. Rather, the hate, anger, and fear which drive such violence have been growing steadily just below the surface.
It’s a privilege, in a way, to be able to describe these sentiments as “just below the surface.” By that, I mean many of us have the privilege in our daily lives to ignore the constant build-up of hate; many of us are only forced to confront this reality when it erupts in a particularly violent, horrific, and public way.
Many others, of course, are not so fortunate. They are forced to live anxious, guarded lives knowing full well such hate is thriving all around them. They experience its tremors every day.
It is hard to see what we don’t experience directly. It is hard to know what to do when our problems are so overwhelming. It is hard to find words in the face of such horror. It is hard to accept that this violence has occurred and nothing any of us can do will undo it.
It is hard. But this is the work we have ahead of us.
I am still processing the news coming out of New Zealand this morning. I am still trying to make sense of such senseless violence. I am still gasping for air, trying to find my footing on this rocky ground. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to repair this broken world.
But I do know that there is a role for each of us in this work. Today’s violence may have been half a world away, but it could have just as easily been in my own backyard. Every single one of us — even a nobody like me — has a responsibility to quell our local tremors; to do everything in our power to make tomorrow better than today.
This doesn’t happen as some grand, dramatic scene in which we get to play the hero. No. No will ever likely ever know or recognize this work. But this is the work to be done. Acts of love, acts of humanity, acts of peace and kindness; embracing a mode everyday existence that actively seeks to quell this hate and to subtly prevent such violence by never letting it get that far.
It is, perhaps, a small comfort on days like today. It feels too small, too insufficient. And in many ways it is. There is much more work to do. There is always more work to do.
But the question we should be asking ourselves this morning isn’t how we let ourselves get here; how such violent hate continues to exist in the world. Rather, we should be examining the ways in which we, individually, have been complicit in allowing such hate to fester. We should be asking ourselves what we, individually, will do differently tomorrow; what we will do differently every day after that. We should be asking ourselves what specific steps we will take to make this world better, to actively work everyday towards building a world of love.