Certainty, Insanity in Paris

“We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values. Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity… We will answer hatred with love.”

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

More than a million people demonstrated for peace on the streets of Paris–40 presidents and prime ministers from around the world, leaders from diverse religions, ordinary people like you or me–and they marched together to show solidarity against a latest act of terrorism..

This outcry comes after 17 people died this week from an outrageous assault on the staff of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The writers and cartoonists dared to express themselves. The attackers did not agree with the magazine’s editorial decisions and chose to kill the people who held and shared opinions unlike their own.

Most of us know what it’s like to know we are right! We are sometimes certain. Beyond a doubt, we know our explanation is the right one, our understanding the sole correct way to see the world, this moment, and we aren’t interested in hearing another version of truth because there is no other possible truth.

Another person’s point of view can seem completely wrong. In the USA it’s easy to see this certainty in politics–the Republicans and Democrats already planning for how they will get their own agenda passed–often losing sight of the problems that most need to be addressed.

This focus on what is right leads human beings to forget what might matter most when we get back to the basics. Loving parents teach their children to be kind, to eat well, to share, to work hard and play well with others. They teach their children to stay clean, exercise, and to help others in need–to look out for their younger siblings. Yet, sometimes these lessons are lost. Some children grow up in less-than-ideal situations. Sometimes parents aren’t healthy enough–and maybe haven’t learned these lessons well themselves.

We are seeing insanity.

What do we do about the struggles that happen when some people believe they have the one and only answer? What happens when we are unwilling to listen–to even consider–another human being’s way of making sense of creation?

Insanity results.

No religion commands its people to kill others. Only people command other people to kill.

When three gunmen killed a roomful of journalist for expressing themselves, I–along with millions of people–was outraged and sickened–and deeply saddened.

This killing was insane and the extreme result of people misled. Demons in the mind? This killing was the result of a certainly gone mad. This killing was planned, targeted, and shocking.

It is also a reminder: I wanted to turn the radio off. I wanted to block out the latest news–the latest of what felt like more of the same. But, no–I realized. I need to listen, to be a part, to let it in.

No sane person would kill another person for expressing an opinion he didn’t like.

No sane person would kill anyone–unless, perhaps, in self-defense or in defense of others.

No sane person would believe that killing others will make our world a better place.

Sanity is mental clarity. Sanity means patience and acceptance for the flaws of life, ourselves, others. Sanity is something we each lose sometimes. We lose our clarity, our stability, our calm. We demand. We want more than our share, condemn people who don’t look or act like we do. But most of us come back to sanity before doing harm to others–often even before speaking a word of the insanity aloud. Sometimes we go wreckless with words. Sometimes we apologize later.

No sane person would do what these gunmen did.

Thank you to the millions marching for peace.

Thank you to religious leaders coming together.

Thank you to all who send love to the families who have lost loved ones. And let us pray for and bow and aspire to a world where we love each other better, where we nourish the children and help them to feel strong and able to grow into men and women who value life–who will honor and allow for others to also live and love.



The Angel Dance

            In memory of those killed during a weekly editorial meeting
            Charlie Hebdo Magazine–Paris, France
            January 7, 2015.

The radio, loud.
I want to shut it off
.           from this.

The voice promises to inform me
update so I know
as they learn
in search of three gunmen.

I want to shut it out
this      more
.                       of the same.

but then I begin to settle in:

Twelve dead.
sat around a table talking in Paris.

Others didn’t like what they said,
cartoons they drew
satire they published.

Guns fired:
How do these men feel?

Driving reckless,
hi-jacked car,
rage near the Leuven

sorrow? regret?

Does he yearn one last embrace
from his mother?
Imagine fists he dodged from a brother?
Was he hungry?
For what was he
.                        most hungry?

Now, surely,
there is no where
no where
better to go.

                                 Deborah Brink Woehrmann


Links You Might Like:

“Huge Show of Solidarity Against Terrorism in Paris.” By Liz Alderman. Jan. 10, 2015. New York Times.

Includes slideshow from demonstration in Paris on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2015.

“9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shooting and Charlie Hebdo” By Omid Safi,  Weekly columnist for “On Being

Norwegian prime minister’s response to terrorism: ‘Answer hatred with love’: How Norway tried to cope with the horror of Anders Breivik from The Guardian

4 Replies to “Certainty, Insanity in Paris”

  1. I am as disturbed by the killings of the journalists in France, as you, but, after looking at a sampling of the offending cartoons, I was also disturbed by their vitriolic and hateful content. How long before our “sane” and caring citizens stand up and say, “Enough! Enough killing; enough hate speech”? Where is the middle ground of kindness where our world can go to be healed?

    1. Glenna–I thought I had replied to your comment because I so appreciate it. You ask good questions. Thank you! Thank you!

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