“I remember when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I‘ve had it with humanity.’” - Patton Oswalt
It’s hard to know what to say when events like this happen. Thankfully, there are better writers out there who do know what to say. Patton Oswalt’s famous post in reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings still fits, so we turn to his words again.
Brussels. Turkey. Nigeria. Paris. Boston. New York City. Countless other cities and nations, all around the world, all targeted by horrific and brutal terror attacks.
This will be our day, watching the news unfurl, listening to the talking heads emote, all the while feeling numb, feeling sick, feeling afraid. Take a moment for them all.
For far too many New Yorkers, this feeling has never gone away. Take a moment for them.
In times like these, an easy trap to fall into is to lash out in fear and anger. That’s a natural reaction, and it’s wired into our genetics.
But those who are screaming with rage right now aren’t who we should be listening to. If they won’t stop raging, turn away from them. Don’t give them another moment.
“But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out.”
Again, it’s hard to know what to say when events like these happen, the first time, the second time, on and on with a haunting regularity that should concern us all.
“This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it, but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.”
Bad things happen. Bad things happen every day. The world can be cyclical and maddening with its nonsensical and repetitive horrors. Sometimes all you can do is let it wash over you.
This is why all those clichés exist. It’s always darkest before the dawn. It’s not that you fall, but that you get back up. Roll with it, baby. Even though they seem like empty platitudes, they are still true.
New York rose back up. The aftermath of the attacks strengthened our bonds with each other, and re-ignited a fierce pride in our home. We will Never Forget, but we will also NEVER bow down.
The point of a terror attack is to scare you. This was done to intimidate us, to anger us, and especially to goad us into doing something stupid and dangerous. The last thing any of us should do right now is listen to someone stupid and dangerous. Take a moment and remember that we are better than that.
The main goal of terrorism is to spread fear and division amongst the world. That means anyone using these incidents to engage in fear-mongering after it, or to score political points from it, is not there to help you. This is not their moment.
“The vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.”
Brussels is writhing in pain and reeling from shock.
Today is for them.
Do what you can to offer them support. Take more than a moment, and send them your love, your sympathy, and most importantly, your strength.
"So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will." - Oswalt
Yes, this is scary. Yes, you should be angry, or despairing, or even afraid. Take a moment for that.
Now lift your head high. You are a New Yorker. You are a Parisian. You are a Turk. You are from Brussels. You are a citizen of this world, and you are a good person. You will not take another moment for fear and darkness.
New York sends you love and strength, Brussels.