So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, New International Version.
My friend Chris and I have had a long conversation today about the attacks over this weekend in Beirut, Iraq, and especially Paris. The organized attacks in France were especially horrible because of where they occurred. This time, it wasn’t the government that was struck. It wasn’t an airplane, which have felt vulnerable since 9/11 (or for those with longer memories, since the hijackings of the 70s and the multitudes of crashes in the 80s). This wasn’t more violence in a country besieged by violence.
These attacks happened in the safe places. The strike zones in Paris weren’t symbols of government. They weren’t symbols of the military. These were the kinds of places people go when they feel free and happy. Joy is the enemy of evil.
ISIS is such a faceless, ambiguous threat. And this weekend’s strike in Paris shows that they understand how to fully instill fear – they struck at the heart of a city. They hit the happy places, where innocents went for dinner, or to see a game, or to catch a few drinks and a concert with friends. They struck families and couples and the lighthearted social centers of the city. By doing so, as Chris wrote today, they struck at “leisure, livelihood, and the freedom of choice.”
We grieve with them. We wonder what is next.
And we fear.
There is so much fear, even as we want to strike back.
We forget what FDR said: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself — nameless unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”
Some of us have additional concerns that strike a chill in our hearts. I will admit I understand completely where some military spouses are coming from when they hear the cries of “We must fight ISIS!” and immediately shudder. To the world and to our nation, it is the US military that will be asked to do the fighting, often by people who are unwilling or unable to do that fighting themselves. But to us, it is our family who would be asked to fight and sacrifice.
How do we keep fear from winning?
Chris put it beautifully: “What I know is this. As shocking, horrifying and mind-numbing as the attacks on Paris are, there are points and times when a person must turn it all off and unplug. Leave the doubts and worry to those who are in charge of logistics. Find a way to help those in need, if one feels compelled to do so. Live your daily life. Remember what happened in Paris, in Beirut and in other places but do not let them consume you. For those that are affiliated with the military, yes.. deployments may happen. Yet those deployments probably would’ve happened even if the Paris attacks had not have happened. Thus, the importance of resuming normalcy is more important than ever. Take the time together that you have now and make the most of it. Just do not do it out of fear.”
Fear not. Be prepared and self-aware, but fear not. When we live, they lose.