By Victor D. Infante
It’s Easter, and earlier today a suicide bombing in Pakistan killed more than 65 people, many of them children. In this particular instance, the act off terrorism was largely targeting Christians. Other bombings, such as recent ones in Turkey and Iraq, have targeted Muslims. And here’s the truth: The rationalizations for the violence are all complete bullshit. Whether it’s Brussels or Jakarta, the only reason for terrorism is to garner political power through terror. Thus, the name. The fact is, these acts are orchestrated by cowards who want the rest of the world to join them in their cowardice. They want people to curl up in a ball in fear, or to lash out blindly in anger. They want the rest of the world to turn on one another, so they can grow in the toxic soil they’ve sewn. There are many very salient points of political conflict between the West and the Middle East, but don’t get it twisted: These are people who use those legitimate arguments as a flimsy excuse for violence. In the end, all of the political and religious rhetoric they use is simply a facade.
Sometimes, the world seems hopeless, as though there’s no end in sight to this endless cycle of bloodshed. But as I said before, it’s Easter, and I’m thinking about resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ particularly, of course, whether you consider that to be literal or allegorical, but also the parade of pagan sun gods who also died and were reborn before him. Many would point to the existence of the latter as evidence toward disproving the further, but that really seems beside the point. The more interesting question is, “Why is this pattern of resurrection so prevalent in our psyches?” It’s more than a simple fear of death. At its root is a deep-seated need to believe in redemption, to believe that, the way winter gives way to spring, we too can rise from fallow ground reborn. That we can start fresh, our sins redeemed. That we can have another chance to get it right, to build something beautiful with our lives.
Call it religion, or pattern-recognition, or the small spark of hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box. I cannot speak with any authority as to what happens after this life, or indeed, if anything happens at all. But I can say with some certainty that we are imbued, by means either natural or divine, with a desire to exit winter, to start again, better than we were. And this is indeed winter right now, despite what the calendar says, with so many streets bloodied and the air filled with so much fear and hate. It’s that fear and hate that keeps us in winter, exposed, shivering and feverish — and that was the murders’ goal all along.
That fever of anger and fear is everywhere. Some people say it’s amplified by the Internet and a 24-hour news cycle, and they’re probably correct, but again, that hardly seems the point. Indeed, one need only look to those twisted mirror oracles to see the way that fever molds us into something monstrous, the way pundits and politicians are locked into a cycle of rage, oblivious that it’s consuming them. They are so consumed by a need to be right that they’ve stripped themselves entirely of compassion and empathy. They want fear and violence as much as the terrorists, and they want it here as much as they do abroad. One need only look at the passivity with which they greet domestic mass shootings and police violence to understand that these, too, are acts of terrorism, provoked and encouraged by a relative few for personal and political gain. They want us to turn on one another, white and black, Christian, Muslim, Jew or atheist, civilian and police. They tell us we’re different, that we have to fear each other, and every time they we do, they win.
I can’t see a path into spring any better than anyone else, but I do know a thing about pattern recognition, and I can posit a guess about what the literal or allegorical Jesus and all those sun gods were trying to tell us, that the best way to find the light is to seek it inside ourselves, that the best way to find forgiveness for our own trespasses is to forgive those who’ve trespassed against us. All of us are beset by cowards who try to convince us that they are saints or devils, when really, they’re nothing much at all. All smoke and mirrors, but their lies poison our very air. But if they are constantly seeking to convince us that we should be angry and afraid, then perhaps the way forward lies in seeking ways to be brave, and to love, and to forgive. I have no idea where winter ends, but I have to believe that desire to be better than we are is such a prevalent symbol because we need to believe that we can be better, and that desire is, ultimately more powerful than fear.