We all know about the terrible tragedy in Paris on Friday. It was more than a tragedy; it was an atrocity, because it was perpetrated intentionally by human hands.
Jack McDevitt, one of my favorite sci fi authors, talks about how a man can come to do these things to another human being:
These killers are equipped with brains, but obviously don’t use them. That’s not a trait that is limited to some branches of Islam. We’ve seen it in western culture, too. Not that it necessarily leads to homicide, but we have substantial numbers of people who have made up their minds about an issue and simply refuse to look at the evidence. Setting religion aside, we have substantial portions of the population who deny climate change, maintain political loyalties under any circumstances, cling to racism, sexism, and are hopelessly locked in on evolution, to name just a few. Each of us has been given a brain. It would be helpful if we got into the habit of using it, even when the conclusions that show up make us uncomfortable.
These people thrive on spreading hatred destruction and lies.
But there was one other thing I read this weekend that touched me deeply. It was written by Isobel Bowdery, one of the survivors of the attack on the Bataclan Theatre. She survived by pretending to be dead, laying amidst a sea of bodies for more than an hour, listening as chaos and death unfolded all around her.
And yet she finds the grace to write this:
But being a survivor of this horror lets me able to shed light on the heroes. To the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst i whimpered, to the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy i loved was dead, to the injured man who i had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes so i wouldnt have to wear this blood stained top, to all of you who have sent caring messages of support – you make me believe this world has the potential to be better. to never let this happen again… As i lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you. over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those i love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep belieivng in the good in people. to not let those men win. Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil. RIP angels. You will never be forgotten.
When these men perpetrate these acts, we are meant to feel small.
To feel powerless.
To feel helpless and afraid.
These attacks are intended to divide us, and to expose our baser natures – our anger, our hatred, and our blood-lust for revenge.
But reading these two writers – one a professional author who speaks of reason, and one a “regular” person who went through unimaginable horror and was still able to speak of beauty and light – makes me realize I am not small. I am not powerless. And I will not be made to feel helpless and afraid.
I am a writer. Any time I pick up a pen or sit down at my keyboard, I have a chance to spread a little light and love and truth and beauty, to counteract the ugliness and lies and savagery.
As writers, each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to share and nurture a little truth and beauty in the world.