What Can We Do?

I've been debating all week whether or not to write something about the Paris attacks. This blog is not a political one. But it is a blog about everyday life, so I have decided to at least say something in that context, because I do wonder, what can we as ordinary citizens, ordinary people do?

Living in a city touched by terrorism is no longer a rare occurrence. I lived in New York on September 11, 2001 and in London on July 7, 2005. And last weekend the Hub had taken a weekend trip to Paris with some friends. I had no idea what their itinerary was, and in fact didn't even hear from him until Saturday morning. His phone was dead and apart from a few police cars they had seen go by, they didn't even notice anything amiss on Friday evening. 

It was scary, yes, but I also knew not to panic. I am not sure if this is because I have been in this situation before or if I knew there was nothing I could do when I couldn't reach him. He was fine in the end.  

Many others were not. And when I saw the look on my French colleagues' faces on Monday morning I recognized it well. It was the face I wore for months after the collapse of the twin towers. What also collapsed then was my innocent view of the world -- that death and destruction could never touch my everyday life as I took the subway to work at my first grown-up job, ate take out food in my first real apartment and drank cocktails in New York City bars. 

Everyone probably has that moment in their young life. For some it is sooner than others, or more devastating. And for some of the less lucky who live daily in war zones, it can happen as early as the moment they are born.

So what can we do in our everyday lives in the aftermath of such an atrocity? Well, here are the three things that I am doing. 

The first thing is to not cultivate any hate in my own heart. We know that there is no culture or no religion that has not committed some atrocity with its collective ego. We always clutch for something to make us feel better, for someone to direct our own anger and disgust at, but this only fuels the fire. Particularly in multicultural cities, there are many innocent people who deal with ferocious anger directed at them personally as they go about their daily life after these events -- for something they had nothing to do with

The second, is to make sure that I always exercise my right to vote. If we are lucky enough to be living in democracies, to have the right to vote, we need to stay informed and exercise it. We cannot take these things for granted. And if we want to influence things on a global stage, we can start with at least this simple action.

I guess the third would be to use this is a reminder of the gratitude that I should have for every day that I am alive on this planet. We only get one shot at this (as far as I know), so there's no time to waste wishing things were different. We've got to grab the joy of living that's right in front of us. 

I know that the cause of terrorism is very complicated and I'm not saying any of these things are going to affect it on a direct level. I wish. But what I am trying to do is think about what I can do on a personal level, because that's the only thing that at least seems as if it's in my control. 

Photo credit: Come and vote! via photopin (license)

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