"if you see something, say something." Less than a week ago, a man killed 49 people and died himself at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. In spite of an ongoing investigation, in spite of the fact that this attack targeted the LGBTQ community, in spite of the fact that it was Latino night at the club, making this a double assault to society's margins, the focus for many is on the idea that the shooter called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. While it is unlikely that a terrorist group would decline to take credit for an act such as this, it appears that it was not an act planned by the group. "If you see something, say something."
Did the sign imply that the tunnel could be a target for terrorist activity? The thought drove me closer to the tears I was fighting, and drove me to prayer. God...please just let me get through and out of this tunnel. My family is waiting for me. I'm trying to do your work in the world. I love you. My heart slowed at the onset of prayer, then quickened as the reality of what I was praying hit me. I wasn't praying for the tunnel to not collapse or explode..I was praying for me to get through it first. This revelation set the aforementioned tears into motion. It brought home the humanness of our condition. It caused me to look long and hard at what and how I pray. It caused me to beg forgiveness for all the ways I don't include the welfare of others in my most basic thoughts.
"If you see something, say something." What does that mean? Should I peer at the faces of the frustrated drivers around me? Should my senses be heightened by the skin color of the driver next to me? Is there a "type" of person I should be looking for who would be most likely to wreak havoc? Just the day before, two Muslim men were investigated for praying in a T station in Boston. This is Ramadan, a time of holy reflection for Muslims. A time during which the examination of motives, the seeking of forgiveness, a fasting from the excess with which most of us mindlessly fill ourselves is at hand. A time during which prayer holds even greater importance than usual. These men were praying because it was prayer time. Someone "saw something" and called 911.
I thought about my 3 biological children. They were born in 1996, 2000 and 2003. They don't remember life pre- 9/11. They don't remember a time during which they didn't have terror drills as well as fire drills in school. They don't remember a time when a person catching a flight didn't need to arrive at the airport 2 hours in advance, or when backpacks and bags were not banned from large events. They have been witness to an unacceptable and unbelievable amount of violence in their lives. And yet, if they saw the sign I did, they would wonder aloud what they should see. What is abnormal? What qualifies to raise their antenna? What brings me a great deal of comfort and hope, is that their generation appears more likely to ask "how can I help?" than to dial 911 in the face of a difference. They are more likely to be inclusive so that perhaps the odds of someone feeling so excluded or wrong in his or her identity shooting up a crowd are minimized. They are more likely to find the flashing sign offensive.
I'm not suggesting that we anesthetize ourselves to the horrors around us. I'm suggesting that we become more aware of the needs of others..that we think about our own safety in the tunnel, but also pray for the tunnel to remain intact for others. I'm suggesting that we when we think we "see something" we consider our bias' and question our intention. I'm suggesting that most times if we are in a position to "say something" it might be.."how can I help you?"
The traffic in the tunnel eventually transitioned to bridge traffic and heavy volume for much of the drive. I was exhausted from the weeks away at class, from my drive, from the processing of yet another act of horror...yet another mass shooting. I was fatigued by the admission of my own bias, my human predisposition to look at people who are different as a potential threat. I was bone tired, and finally got real with my prayers. Please help us to help one another. Help us to raise our children in safety, and to value safety enough that we work to ensure that other children are raised in safety. Help us to question, but to understand what it is we are really asking. Forgive us for our selfishness, and for allowing fear to make our decisions. Thank you for seizing our hearts, expanding our minds, and allowing us to dream of a world in which all are safe. Amen