It begins with me

Way back in 2001, when the events of 9/11 rocked the world, I was living in a small Alaskan town of about 4000 people, a microcosm of American society. I saw how suspicions prevailed. How the word choice of seemingly intelligent colleagues broadened to include pejorative terms like rag-heads. How the immediate reaction was to shore up and dig in, to close borders, and keep America for Americans. Fast forward and this is Europe today.

I’d grown up in an Ireland where bombs were regular occurrences and being a terrorist was a job that came with and without a uniform. I’d been taught from an early age that if their actions changed how I lived my life, they’d won. I remember writing to the top ranks of the company I worked for, explaining how curtailing flights, changing work patterns, and modifying company behaviour was encouraging the very change in behaviour that would give the terrorists their win. I never received a reply.

Bombs, loss of life, man’s inhumanity to man – none of it was new. America was no stranger to terrorism back then. The Oklahoma bombing was proof of that. But, as was explained to me back then, McVeigh et al. were home-grown. The 9/11 perpetrators were different. They had breached the border, broken through the defence. America was no longer a safe place in which to live.

The day before the Paris bombings, many lives were lost in Beirut. I saw little, if any media coverage. And then Paris happened. And the world became red, white, and blue. I wondered aloud when we had become so selective in our condemnation, in our reactions, with our sympathy. And this was one answer I received:  ‘This is on our patch. What they do at home [i.e., Beirut], that’s their business. But when they come into our back yard, and kill us – that’s different.’


What happened in Paris, and in Beirut, are atrocities. ISIS, in claiming the action as their own, will continue to foment anger and terror. Reports are already circulating that they have infiltrated refugees fleeing to Europe with 4000 militants, armed and ready to kill. Who knows if it’s true. Their aim would appear to be to split the world in two. To change how we live our lives. To turn us into Muslim-hating citizens who live in fear. And I do live in fear … fear that they will succeed.

Two centuries ago, politicians were citing eternal vigilance as the price of liberty. Today, we want our governments to protect us. Yet when they mention surveillance and accessing social media in order to track these terrorists, we cling feverishly to our privacy and cry foul on human rights. We want our security organisations to filter out the bad guys but when we’re held up at airport security, we moan about the inconvenience. Can we have it all? I wonder.

Are those branded ‘conspiracy theorists’ right? Is this nothing but a corporate war for profit and power being financed by the West using others as puppets to do their dirty work? Is it an excuse for countries like Hungary to put armed police on the streets to further agitate the masses and shut their borders to those in need? Is it about religion and false ideologies?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have a choice. I can choose to live in fear. I can choose to treat each Muslim I meet as a potential terrorist. I can choose to join those who are damning the millions fleeing ISIS-strongholds like Syria because one bomber got through the net. Or I can refuse to hate. I can have faith in human decency and hold fast to the belief that good will triumph over evil. It’s my choice. It begins with me.

First published in the Budapest Times 20 November 2015

3 Responses

  1. Excellent Mary,
    If ISIS has a plan it may be, that we shall in our all consuming fear, become adherents to their hateful vengeful “GOD” in an effort to save our own skins, but not the way we choose to live our lives.
    That they won’t succeed is certain, but what they are likely to achieve is a rise in far right wing politics, that will manifest itself in a rise in the popularity here in France, of Marianne Le Pens National Front and with that, the loss of the true spirit of France. ;- Liberte’, Egalite’, Fraternite’.
    Yes it was appalling that the atrocity in Beirute past with only a scant note, but good that similarly actions in Nigeria by Boko Harem were well covered.
    Terror acts wherever they occur should be reported with similar weight and condemnation, if not, then the process of prioritization can only be based on place and skin colour. Disgusting.
    I am deeply concerned at reports that a number of Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, wish to reduce if not stop the acceptance of refugees from Syria. Clearly they have forgotten that many, if not all, are the descendants of refugees fleeing from persecution and poverty across Europe. How people change, some awareness and respect for the actions of our ancestors could be salutary.
    Just another thing we seem to have lost as we follow the path of Roman Empire Christianity, as opposed to being the “followers of the way”. “The way” being that simple path that Jesus led.
    Worth remembering that neither God or Jesus were / are Christians.
    Returning to the current situation with Terrorism, isn’t it important to resist the the temptation to hate, to exclude, to allow ones principals to be warped.
    “God please grant me serenity
    to accept what I cannot change;
    the courage to change the things that I can
    the wisdom to know the difference”
    Keep to your principals of truth and love.

    1. If Jesus wasn’t a Christian we ought to be called ‘Paulians’! And if I’m not mistaken, the original thrust of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité was strictly intra-French. And if I may have a third point – the way forward in this world has always been with courage rather than serenity; Jesus and the French, for a couple of examples. Become a doormat and people use you as such.

  2. Interesting post today on how the media is reporting, it’s just that we choose what to read and share and that’s what creates the imbalance. I wonder

Talk to me...

%d bloggers like this: