It’s eerie that just five weeks ago I was in London for my first-ever visit. Although I was never in the exact locations where the four subway and bus bombs went off, I had been in the general vicinity. We’re still waiting to hear from a friend, who works in the area, that she’s 0kay.
So far, Londoners are dealing with the terrorist attack with the steely calm they are famous for, reports the Los Angeles Times. “We are clearly shocked at what has happened today, but we are not surprised,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick of the Metropolitan Police, tells the Times.
Back in the United States and especially in Los Angeles, security has been beefed up along public transit routes. The terrorist alert level is being raised to orange.
Amidst all this horrifying news, it’s important to consider how we explain these events to our children. In a way, I’m lucky because my son is only 3 and he’s not quite yet aware of world events, but here’s what I think I would say if he was old enough to understand:
“There is no justification for people who are committing these acts of terrorism. There is no great underlying principle behind their actions, just hate and the desire for power.
“People who hurt innocent bystanders just to invoke terror and fear are morally bankrupt. There is no great cause here because these people are not oppressed victims of the people they are attacking.
“Instead, a handful of wealthy ideologues are recruiting losers and malcontents to satisfy their own desires for power and control over society. The underlings who carry out attacks believe their religion and cause with such fervor, they’re willing to hurt and kill innocent people. And they are willing to listen to unscrupulous leaders who simply seek power themselves.
“Harboring and manipulating an extremist viewpoint has threatened civilization throughout history. Tragedies such as the Crusades and Holocaust illustrate the dangers of letting extremists gain power and control.
“But you must remember, that the goal of terrorists is to create fear in your heart and mind. If we succumb, another sort of extremist takes hold: those who feed fear to achieve their own sordid goals of wealth and power. As a result, hard-won freedoms and rights are discarded, which means the extremists on both sides win, and people like us, the folk in the middle, are the big losers.
“As you grow up, Seth, you will see extremist behavior not only in the world arena, but also your personal one. It might be something as annoying as evangelicals telling you what God to believe in to something as simple as peers pressuring you to get a tattoo. Or you might date someone who insists you bathe her in luxury and wealth.
“While these things may seem small when compared to the scope of today’s and past attacks, it’s important to remember that these terrorists – like the Nazis were – are actually small people, living small lives trying to becomes important or famous, even if by incredibly vicious means. They’ve gone beyond pushing their beliefs to punishing all those who do not agree.
“This is why it is essential that you approach life with flexibility. While you may believe you have found some inner truth, you may later discover some flaw that proves it is at least partially incorrect. That’s the way it should be. But had you pushed your “incorrect” truth on other people, you’ve done them a disservice that may last long beyond the time that you’ve realized your own mistake.
“On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with speaking up about your beliefs. We would never learn from one another if we didn’t share our knowledge and wisdom with friends. But share that knowledge to enrich lives, not to control or manipulate them. And when you listen to the knowledge and wisdom of those same people, your own life will be enriched.
“So as you grow up, remember always to look at the bigger picture of events such as the London terrorist attack and realize that a lot more is going on than just a battle against good and evil. We’re talking about human behavior and how it works. We’re talking about power. We’re talking about your own life. We’re talking about the future of mankind.”