Please don’t let them win

I’m writing this several days after a shooting in Orlando, FL brought many people to their feet in anger, confusion, and solidarity. Some of these people identified with the LGBTQ community and resonated with those who were the focus of the shooting. Others were overall saddened with the state of the country. Some were furious at terrorists. And some hated Muslims.

A few days ago I had an interesting discussion with my brother. He said, “I mean, how many things like this have to happen before everyone is carrying a gun?”

I was stunned. This was not my initial reaction. I had been meditating on the growing number of shootings and been thinking, “When will we get rid of guns?”

Isn’t that interesting? Two brothers with two very different viewpoints. I would never allow a group of people I did not agree with to instill so much fear that I would carry a gun. So, taking the Middle Path, I considered what he had said and how many others may be thinking the same thing, or even, “How would people oppose guns when we need to protect ourselves against these terrorists?” (Which, admittedly, makes me consider the adage “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”)

My response:  Terrorists want you to believe that they represent an entire religion (Islam). They want you to think you aren’t safe (check the stats). They want you to get angry and grab guns and start fights. Why? The best terrorism happens from the inside out, meaning, we are more than capable of destroying ourselves. It’s like the terrorists can sneeze a virus of violence into our country and we will become infected. The virus will consume us from the inside out.

I can speak about his as a liberal, peace-loving, tree hugger (which I am). I can also speak to this as someone learning about and working with mental illness. The brain is at work. The brain is in control. The brain is making connections. The brain is forging opinions. It’s undergoing a stress response. It can create new maps and pathways. Our behavior can reinforce our thinking and so on, and on, and on until we destroy ourselves from the inside out from this cognitive virus.

Politics is not my thing. I don’t care what the politicians are saying about this shooting. I care about your processing and I want you to know that if you’re angry and sad that this is expected and fine. But I don’t want terrorism to win, regardless of who the terrorists are. I’ve seen rape victims scared of going to public functions. That’s terrorism. I’ve seen young adults who grew up being hit by their fathers unable to trust other adults. That’s terrorism. “ism” meaning “the art of”, as in, this is how we make terror dance.

I ask that you don’t ever, ever blame a whole community, especially one as large as those practicing Islam, by the work of a sub group. Even if that sub group has thousands of people in it. To judge the 1,001th person is never appropriate. In fact, peaceful, caring Muslims are suffering terribly from the acts of those that are using their religion as the means to incubate this virus. We can cure more by learning more about Islam than by focusing on the negative (which, by the way, is what our brains are designed to do).

However you feel about guns, I ask that you recognize that guns make killing easy. When we make killing easy we can separate ourselves from the act. Our brains have to cope with this ambiguity and it more than likely leads to dysfunction.

Finally. Yes, please fight terrorism. But that’s it. Fight the virus, not the symptoms. We all agree that terrorism is bad. We treat sickness with soup, rest, and medicine. Doctors never say, “Oh, just let the virus take over and you’ll be all right.”