As a child I was brought up under the threat of nuclear war. I firmly believed that any day, a powerful man in a darkened room would press down on a big red button and begin a war that would have no winners, only a planet full of losers. The fear was real and justified, but in many ways had a strange feeling of safety built into it. We felt that we knew where the threat was coming from, we knew that if it started, it was quantifiable and final.
Today my children live under a completely different threat. Terrorism functions in the space of the unpredictable, the ever-changing and the unknown. A religious and political ideology that makes heroes out of martyrs and and great leaders out of anger-filled young men, fueled largely by hatred, testosterone and what they learn on the Internet is, by self-definition, a weapon of mass destruction.
The fear is real. The facts are overwhelming and the ability to do anything about it seems to be beyond our reach entirely. One of the things that fear does to us it to make us feel utterly powerless, depression is highlighted when we feel that there is nothing we can do to change the situation around us.
So what, if anything, can I do?
I can’t go to war on ISIS. I can’t change an entire nations attitudes toward the treatment of women. I can’t change the world.
But I can change MY world.
I can raise my daughter to be proud of her femaleness, to be bold and strong and gutsy. To not let anyone tell her that she needs to either cover her entire body to protect her from men, nor need to use her body to attract their attention.
I can raise my son to be strong and sensitive at the same time, to protect those in his care, to show kindness to women while at the same time considering them as equals.
I can spread love and kindness in the sphere that I am in. I can make the world that I come into contact with today brighter, lighter and more life-affirming through the words that I speak.
I can celebrate the moment, be reminded that living in a peaceful country with human rights and freedom of speech is privilege not to be taken lightly. I can exercise my democratic rights and use them wisely, no matter how frustrating the outcome can sometimes be.
Above all, I can pray. On one level we are responding in the physical level, but on another level we are not fighting against flesh and blood, we are fighting an enemy that has one three-pronged mandate. To steal, kill and destroy.
Prayer allows us the chance to change the world when it feels like there is nothing we can do. Pray for victims, both those who are frightened and those who are caught in a web of anger and lies. Pray for those in government that they use their positions wisely, that they choose to work together to protect the vulnerable.
Let’s bring peace where we can, and pray for peace where we cannot.