Posted by Aaron Mark Reimer
I remember being in seventh grade, at a new school, and not terribly popular. I came in halfway through the year with a wonderful combination of introversion and behavioral problems and quickly made as many real friends as I had at my last school (none). I immediately tried out for the basketball team, which would have been a good idea if I could play basketball or had any athletic ability at all, but I couldn’t and didn’t. I did manage to acquire a nickname at least (Reeman Semen, because Reeman has a vague similarity to my last name for kids that don’t bother learning how to pronounce it and bodily fluid,s are funny to middle-schoolers).
There’s one day that’s standing out in my memory in particular, when I waited around for a ride after school and a couple of kids decided to play keep-away with my hat. I was an unwilling participant. They were both bigger than me, but most people were. More than twenty years later I still recall running back and forth in increasing despair and frustration, trying to get my hat back before they threw it again, or futilely trying catch it in the air as it sailed over my head. Mostly I remember the look on Matt’s face as his stupid grin turned to shock when instead of chasing the hat he’d just thrown, I kept running at him and punched him in the dick. Then I went and chased my hat while he was on the ground.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
He had absolutely no understanding of why I did it. I didn’t understand why they’d take my hat.
This is the memory that’s rattling around in my mind the morning after at least 127 people were killed in Paris in terror attacks. Maybe it was by ISIS. At this point they’ve claimed responsibility, but they would anyway, so who knows. I’m sure they wanted to, at least. Our assumption at this point is that Islamic extremists did it for reasons. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
People on my Facebook feed are jumping to either lay blame or “stand in solidarity,” with the people of Paris. Those are both very easy things to do. Sort of. It’s easy to say we stand in solidarity, but I’m not sure we really know what that means. To be in solidarity means to be in agreement of feeling or action. Can we possibly know what they’re feeling right now? I know that whenever I’m going through a brutal time and someone tells me they know how I feel, I’m pretty aggravated. You don’t know how I feel. You know how you feel, and you’re projecting. We’re certainly not in agreement on action, because no one is agreeing on action. Anything we’re feeling or wanting to do is based on our experiences, not their’s. The truth of it is that we don’t understand.
And they don’t understand.
And the people who did it don’t understand.
If I see one more post with a simple reason or a simple answer, I may just punch a dick. As much as people want to make this about religion or economics or refugees or mental illness, anything we blame is oversimplifying an incredibly complex problem (and anyone blaming refugees deserves a dick punch). The nice thing about simple problems is that they have simple solutions. The problem with simple solutions to complex problems is that we tend to be shocked and dismayed to discover that they create more problems.
And the problems we have now tend to be in large part because of simple solutions we’ve tried in the past.
Maybe let’s try not to do it again.
I can’t stand in solidarity with the people of Paris, though, because I don’t understand. I can’t comprehend what they’re feeling or what they’re going through. More than that, I’m almost certain that any (re)action is going to be wrong. Because as much as this feels random and sudden and brutally out of the blue (and for the people that died, it was), it was a reaction too. Which was probably a reaction to something else. Which was probably a reaction to something completely different.
We don’t understand and we don’t understand.
At some point, something happened. They weren’t born wanting to kill. The people that taught them to kill weren’t born wanting to kill. Something happened and we don’t understand.
What I do understand is lashing out. I know, because we want to lash out now. We feel fear. We feel impotence. What they did was wrong. It was. Terribly, horribly wrong. We feel the need to do something to stop it from happening again. I don’t know what that is, but it’s almost certainly not violence. I know that the people who did this are dead, and at the same time hardly any of them are. There’s a large, amorphous group that we can blame, and blaming feels good.
We see this group as having done something to 127+ individual people in Paris. They see a few individuals as having done something grand to a group. As long as we keep thinking, as long as both “sides” keep thinking of people as faceless groups, it’s easy to advocate for simple solutions that fuel cycles of hate.
I’m rambling. I don’t know what to say. I’m in shock. We all are. So let’s take a deep breath. This isn’t simple. This isn’t a kid lashing out because someone was picking on them, but at the same time, people don’t lash out for no reason. They might pick irrational targets and respond in inappropriate ways, but there are reasons.
I know some of the comments I’m going to hear… maybe here, maybe on Facebook, maybe comments on other things. No reason is good enough for this. They (the faceless group) have forfeited their right to understanding. I don’t know. Maybe. But whatever our solutions are, they’re going to make more problems. I mean, I got my hat back, but later on, when Matt’s balls felt better, I got beat. And later, after that, I got him back. Again. Because that’s what happens when we have adolescent solutions.
I don’t know what the adult solution is here. I don’t know if there is one. I know it’s not simple. It probably involves pain and humility and being more like Christ, though, and being down on our knees and loving our enemies even when we don’t want to (like we ever do).
I don’t stand in solidarity with the people of Paris. I can’t. But my heart is breaking for broken people in a broken world that just can’t seem to stop breaking it more. Because I’m one of them.
So I’m #PrayingForParis.