A Different Kind of Extremist

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a gorgeous Sydney summer morning. It was the kind of day that made you grateful you lived here, perfect temperature, finally free of the oppressive humidity from last week’s storms. I was running late, as is my usual Monday routine, waiting for the bus and getting increasingly frustrated with each minute that ticked me closer to being really late for work.

The bus finally came, and as I walked up the steps to my office, a man walked into a cafe in Martin Place, took out a gun, and proceeded to take several cafe workers and patrons hostage. At 2:10 a.m. this morning, several hostages took advantage of their sleepy captor and rushed the door, awakening the hostage-taker, who fired his weapon and killed one of the hostages. Police swept in, and as the turmoil subsided three people were dead, including the gunman.

Rogue gunmen (with or without religious affiliations) are a much more common occurrence in the US, but in virtually weapon-free Australia, these events really shook everyone. By early afternoon, trying to get a taxi home was next to impossible as office workers streamed out of the city and back to their homes in the suburbs. There was little else on TV other than coverage of the hostage situation.

Listening to the news yammer on about ‘lone wolf’ terrorism and religious extremism whenever things like this happen is exhausting. Seeing racist reactions on social media is depressing. The men who commit acts such as these are hoping only to foment more of what they peddle: hatred from human beings toward other human beings. They want us to look at our differences, to blow them up to be so big that we could never connect with each other. To isolate ourselves from each other, to make it impossible to see the beauty within others.

We have a choice to react one of two ways: Give them what they want and approach life with fear, or choose to meet hatred with love. Overwhelming, all-encompassing, unconditional love.

Even those who hurt us should be met with love. Even this man who killed innocent people should be met with love. The only way to truly achieve peace amongst each other is to drown out all the hatred with its counterpoint. To accept that misguided people will always try to provoke hatred, and to simply love them anyway. To look past the horrific things they do and say and see the humanity in that person, and love that. It’s a tough pill to swallow, to be sure. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to prevent senseless loss of life. But if we can put enough love into the world, if we can look at every single human being that we see as just that, a human being created for love, then I have every hope that this kind of energy can drown out the hatred and fear that has created so much pain. Let’s do things like the #illridewithyou movement that started last night, instead of allowing acts of hate to beget more hate.

Let’s be extremists of a different kind. Lets be fanatically devoted to loving the people around us, known or unknown to us. Let’s show the world what a devotion to kindness, understanding, and peace looks like. Let’s bomb the planet with compassion for our fellow human beings, no matter what they try to do us. That’s a cause I can get behind.

Love

As seen in my neighborhood a couple of months ago

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