I am afraid.
You might read that and say yes everyone is afraid because of ISIS threats and killings, Boko Haram terrorism and kidnappings, Ebola, and kids killing kids in schools. There is so much to truly be afraid of these days and the media likes to remind us repeatedly of these imminent threats to our lives. However, the thing I am most afraid of is what it is doing to people’s view of people.
Controversy is not something I venture into lightly. Typically I avoid political and religious discussions, and start running if things get heated. So I do not venture into this topic lightly, but because of how I have lived my life I feel I must express my thoughts. My life has been dedicated to learning about other cultures and people. I have traveled to more than 20 countries, lived in 3 different countries, worked in the field of diplomacy for a short time, and spent the last 10 years helping companies understand different cultures so they could be successful in bridging the cultural divide for the sake of growing their business. As you might suspect, I love traveling and learning about other people and how they live their lives.
Everyday more intelligent people are afraid to travel, afraid of Muslims, afraid of people they don’t know. I just read an article in yahoo titled “is anywhere safe for tourist”. One of the points it made was “According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas by incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2013 was 350. During the same period, 3,030 people were killed by terrorism on American soil. The risk of dying in a terrorist attack is about 1 in 20 million. For comparison’s sake, the risk of being killed in a car crash is about one in 19,000.” Based on these statistics more people are killed on US soil from terrorism than abroad, and far more people are killed by car crashes than by terrorism. I am not stating that this is not a real fear and something we should not be afraid of, but the daily media barrage is heightening this fear exponentially. It may even be getting to the point were people are going to start feeling post traumatic stress syndrome, even though they were not directly involved. This is not healthy. We must live life and not be afraid. We must reach out to friends and neighbors and create a bigger community not close our doors and hide inside.
Something I learned in Peace Corps was there are not so good people in every culture, but there are also a lot of wonderful, beautiful people who sometimes need our help desperately. These people are also suffering at the hands of the bad people. There were many times in my 2 year Peace Corps experience in Benin that I thought “is it worth it to provide aid, to help development when so much gets stolen by those that do not deserve it.” This was a constant struggle for someone brought up with a strong sense of justice -you do something wrong you get punished; you do something good you get rewarded. The developing world, where much of this terrorism is originating, has a huge gray area in between the white and black scale of justice. If we turn our backs on the people suffering we will lose all hope of stopping the tide of terror. If we turn away refugees, or ban the whole religious sect of Muslims because of the comparatively few really bad ones, I fear that we will make things so much worse. We will prove that ISIS and the others like them were right, that the rest of the world is against their kind and they should all unite and defend themselves against us. The saviors, the ones that might truly change things, might just be the ones falling into that gray band of justice.
So don’t shut your door to those around you, open your heart and let them in. That love and kindness is what will save us in the end, not fear and isolation.
Photo By Buzac Marius