Let us not become the people that we fear!

It would be hard today to write a blog about anything other than being angry. We are all pissed off this week, we are all simply beside ourselves with anger and we have good reason to be. We have every right to be. We are all angry about the same thing but we are all also angry about our own things, about how this public tragedy affected each of us personally. We all have a connection to this, a way that it touched us, whether it is because you are from Boston, or are a runner, or have an eight year old son, or any other number of things, we all have a small personal connection to this thing that happened to Boston, that happened to all of us.

As an American, as a mother, as someone from New England, I felt many personal connections to this tragedy but one in particular really stood out. I’m angry because I’ve spent four years trying to convince my son that for him the war is over, that’s he’s home now, the he can feel safe. I’m angry because for him this week, for several of his friends and for thousands of vets just like them suffering from PTSD, the war came home. How many of them, especially those in the Boston area, are back to square one now, trying to rebuild their lives, trying to believe they are safe, trying to live each day without overwhelming fear, anxiety and anger.

I’m angry because I’m tired of seeing the faces of dead American school children on the news, tired of it!!! And I’m angry because so many Americans are ignorant of the fact that dead children, casualties of violence and war, happen every single day in other places, places we’ve sent our grown sons and daughters and then expect them to come home and pretend that none of it ever happened.

I’m angry that as the mother of a combat vet I even have a perspective on this that other people don’t always understand. I’m angry that the scenes of people’s legs blown off were not something new for my son, for my child. I’m angry that I should have to carry around the stories my son has shared with me in my own head and that because of that when I see faces of children blown up by bombs I am no longer shocked. I’m angry that I’ve already heard these stories before, from other places. I’m angry because that’s not a perspective I ever intended to have in my life.

I’m angry because my 78-year-old mother doesn’t feel safe anymore. I’m angry that my children don’t feel safe. I’m angry that your children don’t feel safe. I’m angry that we were reminded once and again that none of us are ever, actually safe, that the United States of America is not, in fact, somehow protected from things that happen to the rest of the world. I’m angry because, like so many people, I would prefer to ignore that fact, just not believe it to be true and yet once again we were jolted back into reality.

And I’m angry because I am so angry. I am angry that so many of us have had outrageous  thoughts of violence, thoughts of revenge. I’m angry because we are better than that, and yet we’ve been pushed to it, provoked.

We are better than that. Anger is a powerful emotion. It’s the one that enables us to survive. It’s the emotion that kicks in when we are threatened. It’s the emotion, along with fear, that brings on the adrenaline that will give us the strength to fight for our own lives when physically harmed.

It’s also often the thing that saves us when we are emotionally harmed. It’s what we use to cover our vulnerability when we have been hurt, when the pain of something is so great we can’t bear to look at it, can’t stand to let anyone else see it. Being angry is more socially acceptable than dropping to the ground and weeping in public, so we go with that one, when really what we want to do is weep.

Anger helps us survive. We need to acknowledge it, embrace it, channel it constructively but we also need to very, very careful with it. It’s also what can ultimately kill us. Anger held onto too long makes us weak, it drains us. It makes us make decisions that are not in our best interests, or the best interests of those we love.  Like fire, we must use it wisely. Anger is also war, and revenge and violence.We must not let it overtake us or instead we become those people that we fear. We become those people capable of senseless violence in the name of justice, and then those people win, because they have made us one of them.

We need to feel angry this week but we can’t let it take over. We need to leave room to feel fear. We need to feel our vulnerability. We need to embrace our mortality. We need to allow space for love and compassion. We need to remind ourselves, and our children, that we are not those people we fear, that we are better than that. We deserve better than that. Our children deserve better than that. We need to stop and think before we react. We need to step back and take a look at everything, everything, that has led us as a country to this moment in our history. Just stop for a moment, before we react.

That is our only hope for peace. That is our only hope for security. It doesn’t start with guns, or laws, or revenge. It happens when we each find peace in our own hearts, in our own lives. It happens when we find peace with those around us, in our own families, in our own communities and in our own country. It happens when we value all those people equally! It happens when we pull each other closer, when we love a little harder, when we forgive a little more. It starts with you, and me, right now, one person, one heart, one day at a time.

“In a time of anger or despair, even if we feel
overwhelmed, our love is still there. Our capacity to
communicate, to forgive, to be compassionate is
still there. You have to believe this. We are more
than our anger, we are more than our suffering.
We must recognize that we do have within
us the capacity to love, to understand,
to be compassionate, always.”

       “Preventing war is much better than protesting against the war. Protesting the war is too late.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk

Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.