Like any person with empathy, I’ve felt a range of emotions in the past approximately 24 hours. The immediate emotions are the ones that are, inevitably, the most embarrassing. The ones that make you want to lash out and gouge the eyes of some sinister Great Other – those emotions. The ones that cripple your perception of the spectrum of gray between black and white. Then the need to seek out some source of information on the Paris attacks that wasn’t ‘bleeds-it-leads’ spectacle, or ‘ban-all-Muslims’ xenophobia. BBC 5 on the drive home helped pull me back from the frayed edges with calm, actual fact-based reporting and phone calls from actual witnesses and victims. I then added the France24 Live app to my television and watched English-language reporting on the attacks, direct from Paris.
The mutterings that burped from my fingers onto Twitter last night ranged from, “Fuck all religion, religion will be the death of us all” to “If any one of you on my timeline is even thinking about injuring a Muslim person or damaging their property, get the fuck off my timeline”. Emotions are fucked-up things, and emotions can derail any reasoning or detached contemplation of all of the factors involved in the culmination of an act such as this. There is certainly no excuse for barbarous attacks upon innocents, but there is also no excuse for calling a barbarous attack on our part “defending freedom and liberty” if the same types of innocents are killed and maimed there, as well. One man’s “demonic villainy” is another man’s “pure and divine mission from Allah.” Or “Jesus,” or “Lady Liberty,” take your pick. The fact is that these two extremes divided by a common ideological language – Abrahamic roots in both religions, (Mostly American-Style) Christianity and (Still-Historically Juvenile) Islam – are perpetuating the lion’s share of the terrorism on this planet. Culture war, a war of ideologies, my-god-can-beat-up-your-god-rawrrrr, whatever you want to call it. All the socially-conservative bullshit, be it from the Heartland Churches of the US, or the exporters of Wahhabist Islam in so-called ‘ally’ Saudi Arabia, religion is getting away with murder – figuratively and often literally. Let’s not kid ourselves, there are more than a few places in America – primarily in the South – where the local form of government is a de facto theocratic police state.
Any good and complimentary terms that religion likes to use to describe itself – that all blows away at times like these. Quite often, I think that churches and mosques help people in spite of the fact that they’re churches and mosques. There’s nothing that a church ministry can do that a secular function could not do just as well. Well, except perhaps that part where you tell hurting people, sick people, and elderly people things about the end of life which are just not true. And that part where you trap them into a false choice of a super-happy heaven or a divinely-constructed dungeon of eternal torture and cruelty. We don’t do those two things. You can have those. But those two things don’t add one bit to the process of providing basic human dignity to others. If you don’t care enough about someone to tell them the truth, then you don’t care. I can tell you that the peace of knowing, that at the end of my life, that at that last moment of pain there won’t be suffering ever again and that my life will be truly and finally over? That’s what keeps me from not fearing death. Why would I want to live another life, all over again? Why would I want to live for eternity as this person, sitting in this chair right now? That concept feels imprisoning to me.
What I’m trying to say is that we’re all fucking human beings. We’re specks in an immense universe which neither knows nor cares of our existence within it – a speck of a speck of a speck that we are – and we chitter away about nonsense like we know shit. We are only as valuable and as useful as our own lives and what we choose to do with them. All we get is right now. So you want to fight over which god actually gave you a particular plot of sand and dirt? Great, you both eventually die and you get exactly six feet of it, and history will scarcely remember you.
Life is VITAL. There are so many stupid things, so many worthless things, so many personal battles, that just vanish when you realize that the only thing you can be certain of is this very moment. You have a brain, and it yearns to learn about what it doesn’t already know. If someone is telling you that all the truth you could possibly ever need to know and rely upon is in one centuries-old book, are you honestly going to take them seriously?
One person working for peace and for justice is worth more than one billion people praying for peace and for justice. This goes without saying in any but the most delusional of person.
We all have to live on this rock, so get over yourselves and get along. For fuck’s sake.