By Charles Mueller
I woke up today to news that 14 people were shot dead at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. Another tragedy on American soil, another morning waking up to terror. Every time it happens I feel the same way; I become angry, sad, scared and confused. This isn’t supposed to happen in America. This isn’t supposed to be part of our narrative. We are not supposed to live in a country where the risk of being shot or blown up is something real that we have to learn to manage our lives around. Yet, this is our new reality. This is becoming our new narrative. And we have terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh as well as domestic terrorists like Dylan Roof and these people in San Bernardino to thank for this.
When bombs go off in Beirut or people are gunned down in Egypt, we don’t respond the same as we do to the shootings that took place in Paris or any of the most recent mass shootings here at home. We don’t respond the same because it is part of our narrative that regions in the Middle East are unstable and crazy things are supposed to happen there. Those regions of the world have many people who don’t live by the code of rational thought, they live more by the code of the holy text. It is “normal” for people in these regions to do crazy things due to their religious beliefs. Crazy things aren’t supposed to happen here though, we are supposed to live in a stable country full of rational people who would never dream of killing the innocent. That is what is supposed to make this country great. The idea that we can put so many people, with so many different religions in the same place and nobody kills each other over their beliefs. At one point in time that thought was revolutionary. Now it seems we may be taking that world we’ve fought so hard to create for granted. We have lost control over our narrative and now we are being forced to live in a world dictated by fear, a world controlled by terrorism.
Our narrative is tied to what we believe is possible. The greatest motivator to change one’s beliefs is fear inspired by real events. This is the goal of terrorism. To use fear to change our beliefs, to make us feel like we aren’t safe, to remind us that every day could be our last. When we as a people begin to believe this myth, they have won, they have taken control of our narrative even if they aren’t ruling our lands. There is only one way to get it back and that is to unite, to reignite our own myth that we can come together and make the world a safe, stable and free place full of opportunity for everyone. Right now though, it is hard to find the leadership to unite us like this. We have leaders arguing over the wrong things, forgetting who the real enemies are and taking us down a road that only leads to chaos. If fear is the greatest motivator, then we need to be fearful not that we might die, but that our children’s children will not grow up in a world with free thought.
Tragedies like what took place yesterday in San Bernardino are becoming normal; they are becoming part of our narrative. People are beginning to expect things like this and those in Paris to happen. This is what groups like Daesh want, this is the world they want to create and when they have finally destroyed our world, they will continue the fight with each other to figure out which illogical, irrational form of governance should rule the world. We have to unite, we have to come together around the world and take back the narrative. The only thing terrorists fear is our unity because they know what that means. Free thought, opportunity, equality, these are all things worth fighting for. We might not want to recognize it, but right now we are in a fight to keep these ideals alive. The more we act like we aren’t, the more we act like these things will just “go away”, the more we adopt this new myth of terror and fear, the more we lose the dream of the free world. We aren’t in a war with terrorism, if anything we are in a war for our freedom.