I've been feeling afraid and angry and confused for the past few days, and I've wanted to write something, knowing that my fear and grief can't be perfectly communicated, and that too many words don't serve us. So perhaps I am writing this only for myself. If that's the case, thank you for bearing witness to my own attempt at healing.
I've lived with the threat of violence all my life, and for this and other reasons I write as a survivor. Growing up in the north of Ireland/Northern Ireland, I've known people to kill for ideological reasons, and out of desperation to be heard, as well as apparent sheer blood lust. I've witnessed counter-terrorist strategies that often made things worse, because they dehumanized people further, equated the imposition of force with security, and sometimes slipped over into revenge. We didn't know much of restorative justice, and little account was taken of the dominant culture's own errors in the treatment of minority or marginalized people, or their/our complicity in oppression. Wisdom figures were there, but rare. However, later I also saw unfolding and participated in a peace process that eventually brought sworn enemies to the negotiating table, a massive reduction in violence, and a commitment to share leadership for the common good. People said it was impossible. But it happened. It isn't perfect. But it happened. It can happen again.
For that to be possible, we need imagination and courage. Some of the following steps need to be attempted, at the same time:
To grieve the wounds, and comfort those who suffer. Let us not offer quick or easy sentiment. Enormous grief work and support must be offered.
To learn from violence reduction practices that have worked before. This isn't easy to do either - but it is easy to find information about the difficult tasks of nonviolent strategies for making peace.
To recognize that the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. This seems antithetical to Western culture, if not human nature. But I have found that when I attempt it, it works, but only 100% of the time.
To embody beauty in place of terror and vengeance and despair. That means breathing deeply, opening to creativity, and stepping into each of our own possibilities as humans, made for love, able to do much more than we usually realize, right here, right now, wherever we are.
If you have creative ideas, or honest questions, I invite your comments. I only know what I know, which means there are huge gaps. But what experience I have is summed up in the knowledge that more violence, more force, more dividing ourselves will almost certainly not make us more safe. Choosing to step into beauty almost certainly will.