Today I am reminded of my status as a soft target.
And considering my status, I squeeze eyes shut as words and images from Paris leech forward to pull at protective layers applied over many years. Those layers shield me from sharp and painful memories buried just below the surface of day to day life.
Today I am reminded of my status as a soft target, for I live in a free and open society.
And while the freedom of our society is a given for you and me, I am mindful that such a life is but an illusion for many.
Across porous borders we bear witness to the bloom of hatred as the most primitive of emotions rush forward to fill the vacuum left in the wake of collapsing states. Daesh and Al-Qaeda gather those recoiling from an infidel civilization’s advances in academics, human rights, politics, science, technology and warfare.
Under the weight of such advances, their way of life appears to teeter. It buckles and heaves as freedom and equality march forward. We watch as societal collapse scatters remnants of failed countries over borders in the form of rage, revenge and refugees.
Along with rippling waves of refugees the collapse spews sparks of fury, launched far and wide to drift like embers belched from a burning crater. And finding their mark, those angry embers transform soft targets into innocent victims in free and open cities such as Boston, London, Madrid, New York and Paris.
Whose city is next, I wonder.
As Daesh and Al-Qaeda beat the drums of war cowards slither forward to embrace darkness. And with darkness fully embraced, the weakest among them choose to kill.
In a search for soft targets they’ve killed my father. They’ve killed scores of his friends and colleagues. They’ve killed the spouses and the children of my mother’s dear friends.
They indiscriminately transform soft targets into innocent victims. And in doing so they sully their chosen god.
Today I am reminded of my status as a soft target, for I have witnessed the transformation of soft target into innocent victim at my kitchen table, the sharp and painful memories buried just below the surface of day to day life.
Perhaps, because of my age, I am not afraid of being transformed from soft target into innocent victim. Perhaps I’ve seen enough.
I am however afraid of passing to our children life as a soft target.
This does not end with a declaration of battlefield victory. The implosion of an entire region will spew seething embers for years to come. And those embers will continue to drift and float over porous borders in search of the softest of targets.
In search of our children.
The majority fleeing the world’s ruined regions rush forward in search of nothing more than the chance to live in peace. The majority do as I would do if my own way of life were to collapse.
A minority, however, rush forward under banner of darkness to drape a shadow over our free and open cities. Under such a shadow seething embers find what they need to spark devastating loss and hateful vengeance.
And as embers fall upon us what are we to do?
Shall we kill them? If so, how many is enough? We have the means to kill them all, you know.
Shall we build a wall? We have the means to build a wall as well.
Shall we live a life of unending vigilance, searching the darkened sky for drifting embers? We have the capacity to identify and extinguish many such embers.
Or shall we simply accept this cloak of darkness as the norm and tell our children to hunker down and grow familiar with life as a soft target?
Today, like every day, I am reminded of my status as a soft target.
And I hate them for it.
Yet today I am reminded of the need to swallow my hatred and think instead of the majority of the displaced; the tired and poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. People, I imagine, not unlike my great grandparents. People seeking a chance at freedom.
Please don’t think me soft. Across many fronts I support the destruction of those hateful embers for yesterday they did to others what they have done to us; to me and my family. They transformed soft targets into innocent victims.
But I know deep down if we are to dampen the inferno producing those seething embers I must do what I do not wish to do. Today I must unclench my fist and open my arms to help the majority of people seeking nothing more than a better way of life; a life of peace among the people of free and open cities like ours.
We must fight and destroy our hateful adversaries as they are intent on introducing us to an early death. We must fight extremists with equally extreme and savage measures.
And we must fight with more than our military prowess. We must fight with the strength of our openness, our freedom and our power to help a people in need.
Today I am reminded of my status as a soft target and, though I find it difficult to do so, today I put hatred aside so my children might be considered something more precious than soft targets.