In the Caribbean Sea some 200 miles off the coast of Miami, on an island that’s roughly the size of the state of Kentucky, two world leaders met to begin the process of normalizing a global relationship that has been nothing short of toxic for more than six decades.
On Monday, President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro joined hands — albeit very awkwardly — and expressed optimism that one day the long-isolated nation of Cuba can be reintegrated back into the international community.
It’s something that many presidents before Obama tried to accomplish, dating back to John F. Kennedy — just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest America has ever come to nuclear war — to no avail.
Yes, Cuba still has a lot to overcome, namely the restriction of free speech through persistent jailing of government dissidents, but to see two world leaders make the effort to establish peace in an increasingly hostile world is nonetheless encouraging.
And then, less than 24 hours later, bombs exploded in Belgium.
It’s the nightmare authorities have for months been dreading ever since they learned of an extensive terrorist network that resides within the northwestern European country following last November’s Paris attacks.
Already this week, we’ve seen hope and terror at its finest. And it’s only Tuesday.
There’s no question we’re starting to become a bit desensitized to these tragedies. It’s also easy to compare today’s death toll — at least 30 — to the 130 who died in Paris four months ago and internalize that it’s not that bad.
But let’s not forget these are 30 innocent lives, and 30 families that are gravely affected. It usually takes names and faces, and personal life stories, to make the victims resonate with most people. Maybe this time, though, until those identities do come out, let’s just grieve and take a moment to acknowledge these 30 nameless people.
Typical cliches run rampant after such incidences. Phrases urging you to not give into fear, to not let anxiety over terrorism dictate your life, and to support love over hate. You know, the usual.
Here’s another one for you: don’t be stupid.
Fear-mongers relish these situations to pedal intolerance and manipulate others in their most vulnerable states. Don’t let them.
Instead of listening to an emphatic sound byte, maybe do a little bit of research on your own to better understand who the real enemy is. And that enemy is a small fraction of disillusioned people called ISIS who long ago traded away their humanity. Nothing more, nothing less.
Don’t condemn Islam. Don’t blame all Muslims. Don’t hate someone because they’re not like you.
It’s so easy to do — I know. I understand that. But it’s also incredibly ignorant, and doesn’t do you justice as a human being. You’re better than that.
I certainly can’t tell you what to think. But if you feel like you need to point blame at some one, then I hope you’ll block out the outside noise and form your own opinion.
Because we can’t move forward unless we all understand who we’re against. And even more important, who our allies are.
I know where I stand.