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.
8 thoughts on “Better Thoughts”
Thank you for writing this post. Seeing someone who’s been through what you must have see the “overwhelming beauty in the imperfect humanity of the people of the Muslim culture” is encouraging. It means people are not bound to think like the shooter when confronted by an otherwise despicable ideology like jihad.
Thank you for your words. They are not falling on deaf ears. I worry because the group of people I find myself hating and fearing are my fellow Americans who have no tolerance for anyone different than they. I seem to have no tolerance for intolerance. Your words make me stop and think
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I have to remind myself of exactly this when I have thoughts about a particular group, which seems to happen so much more frequently than it used to.
Thank you Sean Patrick for sharing your thoughts and words. They absolutely help fill the void, give us hope, and call us to action. May the number of people who think and talk like you grow exponentially.
Thank you. You are very good at putting ideas and feelings to words. This particular post is very helpful to me this morning.
Thank you for this.
I remember Moose.
I was struck by the beauty of one of our combat terps in Ramadi. A devout Muslim with a deep hatred for Islamic extremist, Moose had been with our organization since the beginning. He was there when I first arrived in 2006 and he was still there when I returned with a different unit in 2007/2008. He surprised me when he recognized me from my previous deployment and walked over to give me a huge hug. He made me reevaluate my position on the Islamic religion as a whole and realize extremism has nothing to do with God/Allah.