Words won’t take us where we need to go. But they’re all I have any more. And it doesn’t feel right, today, to keep them to myself.
I was struck by a thought, not long ago, that it matters how we think the ugly thoughts that we think. The truly ugly thoughts are about other people. And it matters how large a group you think those ugly thoughts about.
A person. A family. A city.
A religion? An entire race?
A rational person understands that the bigger the group you think those thoughts about, the less likely they are to be true.
We are not that rational though.
I was deployed on 9/11 when the towers fell. I was a part of the initial air strikes into Afghanistan a month later. I was a part of the global war on terrorism for the next ten years. I walked out of Iraq in 2010 when we announced official combat operations were officially ending.
I saw it. End to end.
I spent a decade of my life hunting, finding, and neutralizing terrorist threats. Every single one, and there were hundreds, were radical Muslim terrorists.
There’s plenty about that life that I don’t wish to carry around. And a few things that I do. One that I would scream from the highest mountain tops today, after a terrorist murdered 49 people at prayer in New Zealand, is this:
The overwhelming beauty in the imperfect humanity of the people of the Muslim culture in the places in which I served.
You would recognize it.
Mothers and fathers caring for children. Children playing the way children play. Husbands protecting their family. God fearing people, gathering to pray to something bigger than themselves. Bigger than their fears. Bigger than their pain.
Warriors, fighting shoulder to shoulder with my teammates to hold the line against the version of hatred motivated violence that had infected their society.
The infection is a common one. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve ever been. The need to hate the other group. Asia. Africa. The Middle East. America.
Today I’ll mourn the innocent killed at prayer. And I’ll give no name to the common instrument of hate that delivered their fate.
I pray that we keep the humanity of those all to easily classified as “not us” near our hearts and in our minds. There are no two sides to this debate. There is no debate to be had. Just sadness. And loss.
And hopes for a time when we think better thoughts of each other.