Peaceful strength

Tonight, as I was chatting with my mom on the phone, she asked, as she always does, “What’s new?” I found that I had nothing much to say. The kids are fine. The husband’s fine. I’m fine. But in some intangible way, everything is different.

And then I read other blogs and scanned my Twitter feed and remembered why.

Our world turned upside down on Friday night. No longer is Paris the place of romance and magic. What happened is beyond words, in the place where bewilderment and confusion resides. That place where the nightmares live, when I know I’m dreaming because nothing makes sense. How could this have happened? Who would do such a thing?

One of the tweets I read resonated: “Violence in the name of Islam is not religion. Violence is its own religion.”

This violence has nothing to do with our Muslim brothers and sisters, any more than the Spanish Inquisition was truly representative of Catholics. This is about the presence of evil in our world. As much as our knee-jerk reaction is anger, the response cannot involve more violence. However, these perpetrators will not respect peace or allow a peaceful resolution. Like the schoolyard bully, if you fight back, you became as bad as they are. If you don’t fight back, you are weak and the bullying continues, often becoming worse.

So what is the answer? That is where I don’t know the answer. All I know is that whatever the response is, it must involve a display of strength and unity.

I draw on an occurrence from my own world this past week, during which I had a student who demanded that, despite not following the established rules in my classroom, saidĀ student be given a chance to make up missed work. I held my ground, displaying only patience and professionalism while the student sent emails that become increasingly agitated, aggressive, and demanding in nature. In the past, I might have considered giving in or trying to talk the student down. However, something about the tone of the emails made me concerned for the integrity of the learning environment. Instead, my colleague and I decided that the behavior should be reported as a conduct violation and handled by the appropriate authorities. I chose to display peaceful strength and to trust that my colleagues would support me (which they did). Is the situation over? I doubt it, but I trust my colleagues to do their jobs in maintaining a peaceful environment in which bullying is simply not tolerated.

In our world, we need to establish a no tolerance for bullying policy to combat terrorism. Although my expression of such a policy is overly simplistic, I think that we, as human beings, can possibly develop a universal definition, and then a policy. If we could agree that bullying of any sort — on the playground or on a national scale — is simply unacceptable and then agree to a united response that is both strong and peaceful, then we might have a chance to curb these unspeakable evils.

Maybe.

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