Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Freedom and Violence

The point of this blog is not political. I'm generally not interested in using this blog as a forum for debate, something I find often ill-suited to this format anyway. When I do choose to engage in political discussions online, I do so on Facebook, where I can be sure to engage with people I know in real life and tie their perspectives to their real, lived experiences.

I was going to post a happy-go-lucky post today, probably with some baby animal stories or quirks about our life in Nairobi. That somehow didn't feel appropriate this time. I don't have a particularly good comeback to the question, "Why now?" As someone who spends hours reading the news every day, it's impossible for me to pretend I'm unaware of at least some of the immense suffering of people globally. Critics would be right to note that I do not post a sympathetic or thoughtful message after literally every terror attack or humanitarian crisis or bigotry I hear about online. Honestly, though, I don't know anyone who does (or would be capable of doing so).

So instead, I include victims in my thoughts and prayers, donate a relatively small amount of time and money if I can, resolve to be better for humanity's sake, but otherwise go on with my life. I still laugh and smile and sing and generally enjoy my days and even forget about the troubles of the world. I realize that's my precious privilege.

This weekend, though, I can't shake the thoughts of what's happening in two very different places: Kenya, our current home, and Virginia, our permanent home. I'm not here to provide my hot takes on those current events, especially as both situations are developing and the airwaves seem saturated with commentary as is. I don't think I have anything that revolutionary to say that hasn't already been said.

And yet. I hope I can humbly add my voice to the chorus of people who are reaffirming the following truths, which I deeply believe:

  • There is no excuse for terror, or violence used as a political weapon.
  • A healthy government system operates under the rule of law, where strong institutions provide clearly understood and trusted mechanisms for engaged citizens to resolve disputes.
  • White supremacists, the alt-right, neo-Nazis, or whatever you want to call them have a right to free speech, even disgusting and offensive speech, where it does not incite violence or otherwise violate the law. Regardless, hateful speech should never be tolerated by a moral public. Hate should be publicly condemned by all and discriminated against by private citizens, companies, and organizations.
  • Any form of racism, including white supremacism and tribal violence, has no place in our society or the modern world.
  • Saying, "Group B is evil" is a pathetic (and fundamentally irrelevant) defense of Group A.
  • No people should have to live in fear for their safety because of who they are. Those who are lucky enough to live without that fear have an ethical responsibility to defend the most vulnerable.
  • In times of crisis, it's not helpful to put up unnecessary barriers and say, "Other Group That Is Trying to Offer Support is really just part of the problem" as a knee-jerk reaction. If you disagree with their views or believe they are contributing to the problem, you can participate in a respectful dialogue with them. I've had my own mind changed this way. The fact that they are offering their support is not only an olive branch, but an opportunity.

Today, I chose to share a few of my very simple thoughts. Next time, I will probably go back to posting pictures I took on my smartphone and stories about our adventures. That doesn't mean more pressing issues aren't on my mind or that I don't think about how I could be doing more. It means that I choose to focus on hope and goodness and life as usual, the last thing that perpetrators of violence want people to do.

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