I wake up, the morning after yet another terrorist attack in France, wondering what on earth I can say. I have commentators informing me that I shouldn’t have prayed, because “religion is the cause of violence.” I don’t agree; I think human beings are the cause of violence, and everything in the human sphere– culture, country, language, economy, religion, tools, technology– becomes a violent thing when we turn it that way.
A truck, for example. Last night it was a truck that a human turned to violence. And over eighty people were dead, the last time I read the headlines. By the time I hit “publish” it will be more, and by the time you read this it will be still more.
The last major terrorist attack in France was last November. I didn’t have a blog then. I watched in horror as Paris, the world’s most beautiful city, became a war zone. I’m still sickened at the memory. And, with thousands of others, I watched this video, of a father comforting his son, the next day.
“They might have guns but we have flowers. It’s to fight against the guns.”
There were people who objected to this little explanation. They said it was cold comfort and wishful thinking, silly talk. And I guess in some ways they had a point. But I was profoundly moved. I am moved now.
They have guns, but we have flowers.
They have violence, but we have rituals to mourn violence.
They are killers. But we are the ones who mourn for the dead.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Why will we be comforted? Because we mourn. Because we allow ourselves to mourn. Because we mourn the dead. Sometimes, we mourn for those whom we knew and loved personally, because violent people took them from us. Sometimes, we hear of violence from afar, and we mourn with the survivors for the ones they have lost– ones we don’t know.
Sometimes you lay flowers at the grave of your beloved, someone you knew and will always miss. Sometimes you lay flowers at the scene of an act of violence you witnessed, an act of violence that will always haunt your soul. Sometimes you wish that violent men had ended your own life and not that of the person next to you or across the room while you watched, because the trauma is too much to bear. But you live, and you lay flowers. Sometimes you watch from afar, helpless, as the violent take people you don’t know, in front of other people you don’t know. Another person’s world is burned to the ground. Another person mourns by the grave of their beloved.
And you bring flowers, and you mourn with the person you do not know, because they are persons like you, worthy of company in their mourning.
And you will be comforted.