I tried to write about Trayvon Martin. I tried to write about Tamir Rice. I tried to write about Ismail, Ahed, Zakaria, and Mohammed, the four boys killed by an Israeli airstrike at the beach in Gaza last summer. I tried to write about the 200+ kidnapped girls in Nigeria, the children massacred at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. I tried to write aboutGeorge Carter,the boy in my city shot and killed on his way to school. I tried, but the words wouldn’t come, or rather, they came, but they were all jumbled up like hopelessly tangled threads. I wanted to write about the injustice, the pain, the unimaginable grief of the victim’s families. I wanted to write about the fear, the fear as a mother of a black Muslim son, of having to one day explain to him why he is hated and feared for his skin color and religion. Or worse, the fear of him becoming a target of someone else’s hate.
I was reminded again today, with the murders of Yosur, Razan, and Deah, three young Muslims in North Carolina, of why I am rendered impotent to speak, to write, about these tragedies, these injustices. How can I write about something I cannot understand? I don’t understand why some people have so much hate in their hearts for people who are different from them. I don’t understand how people can be so afraid and threatened by people who are different from them. I have never hated a single person in my life. I can’t even hate the people who do such horrible things. The only thing I can think is, how sad it must be to be such an angry, hateful person. It seems impossible a heart can carry so much poison and not explode, but then again the heart holds so much pain and joy without bursting either.
What can I write besides: I am sad, this hurts me, I am afraid? There is no conclusion, no neat little bow to tie to the end of this. There is no resolution. There is hope, yes, but there is also uncertainty. I have no answers. I have no words.
Isabel Allende, a writer I admire, said in an interview that faith is a gift; some have it, some don’t. Maybe. The best definition I’ve found so far came in an unexpected place. In Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair, Jessie, the main character, posits that faith doesn’t give us any answers; it gives us a way to be in a world that provides no answers. To reference another writer, G. Willow Wilson, in her memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, says to accept God’s truth is to accept a truth bigger than anything we can ever imagine, a truth that encompasses all the goodness and utter horror of humanity. God’s truth is beautiful and ugly too.
So what am I left with? This: Allahu akbar. I tell my son, in all things, no matter how great or terrible, Allahu akbar. God is bigger. Bigger than any pain or joy we can imagine. Bigger than any tragedy we can imagine. Those words are the rope and anchor for my soul. They are the only true words I can give.
Ambata is a writer who lives in New Orleans, LA with her husband and son. She blogs about writing and other things at www.aknthoughtsonthings.