no black and white answers for black and white evil

News of the horrific attacks in Paris yesterday left me stunned. Without words.

And, yet…

If you follow world news, you know that suicide bombers and deadly attacks on innocent people happen almost daily in war torn countries in Africa and the Middle East. The headlines are so frequent that we become immune to them.

Attacks on a western country slap us out of our apathy. We want the world to see the injustice done to us. We expect others to rally around us and help us to bear the burden of our pain.  We scream for retaliation.

We quickly point fingers of blame…Our security systems failed us. Someone must be held accountable.

Worse, we feel vindicated for our ethnic, cultural and religious bigotry. See? We knew they are evil.

ISIS and other terror groups live in a black and white world. Their existence, their mandate, their actions are all based on simplistic thinking. We are the righteous ones. There is no need to discern the subtleties of peaceful co-existence. There is no need for dialogue. There is no need for seeking common ground with the other. The other does not even have a right to exist.

How do we respond?

Hawks are already demanding swift and complete retaliation. An eye for an eye…and more.

Doves are calling for peace, mercy, understanding and tolerance.

There are no black and white answers.  The dove in my mind and heart wants to believe that violence can be stopped without more violence.  I continue to hope for an answer that lies somewhere in the grey in-between; between destructive acts of war and ineffective words of peace.

Do I have an answer? No.

So…I pray for Paris.

I pray for the world.

I pray for peace.

And, I pray for wise, strong leaders who can look beyond the anger of the moment. Leaders who will not react impulsively. Leaders who will not feed the existing divisions among peoples by playing to populist mentalities of “us and them”.  Leaders who can, together, ponder and discern the right response to such horrific evil.

lest we forget

poppy

I grew up with war stories. My parents were Polish refugees during World War II. My grand-father fought at the infamous battle of Monte Cassino, a blood bath for Polish soldiers. As a child, Remembrance Day was a time of deep emotion. I shuddered at the eery silence as Taps were played. I choked back tears watching the aging veterans in parades and memorials. I hated watching the endless reels of war footage in our schools and on TV. Played, so we wouldn’t forget.

When it comes to war, we Canadian baby boomers are in a sandwich generation. Our parents and grandparents had personal experiences with war, or knew those who did. The Canadian Armed Forces of my generation seldom saw active combat. Our nation focused on peace keeping, and we were proud of it.

Then came 9/11.

My first thought when the planes hit the World Trade Center was, “we’re going to go to war!” My second thought was, “my son is old enough to fight.”

Canada did not go to Iraq, but we sent troops to Afghanistan. My children did not chose a career in the armed forces, but we knew young women and men who did. Suddenly, battles across the miles had a personal face. The stark youth of our fallen soldiers was heart wrenching.

Alongside the deaths came headlines of post-battle wounds, both physical and mental. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Suicide.

War is hell. Lest we forget.