Kim Riggins: Outrage and the absence of humanity

I had my column all typed up, and I was proud of it. My first column! It was exactly what I wanted to say and I even managed to throw in some clever alliteration. I had it finished almost an entire month before the deadline, so I had plenty of time to fuss over it and change words, you know, polish it up and make it all shiny.

Then, 132 people died in Paris. When I read my piece one last time before emailing it off, it seemed drab to me. Irrelevant. It felt trivial even though it dealt with an important issue.

I remember how I felt on 9/11. The news knocked the breath out of me, and for a moment, my body forgot how to breathe. When it finally came back to me, all I could do was sob, lying on my office floor. Who would do such a thing? Why? I couldn’t believe it. We were, for the first time in a long time, a nation unified, but unified in grief. We know the shock. We remember the pain. We felt it again this weekend. We stand, empathetic, alongside France.

Now, imagine feeling that way every day. Imagine your family, your children, everyone that you love living with that pain and fear every day. Wouldn’t we do everything in our power, risk life and limb, to escape it?

In the wake of this tragedy, we have an opportunity to let love win. Again. We have never allowed fear to stop us in the past. Now is not the time to start. Our governor has “closed the borders” to refugees desperate for shelter (as though he has the authority to do that, but that’s a different issue). Moments like these are the tests of our true selves. They measure us, taking the depth and weight of our character.

Whatever they find, be it exceptional or lacking, will be stamped in time. Our grandchildren’s children will look back on this moment either with pride or with shame.

In a few weeks, we will begin decorating for the holiday season: the most wonderful time of the year. Peace on Earth, goodwill to all men. For those who celebrate Christmas, it will be time to put up the nativity scenes. Churches everywhere will be staging plays celebrating the story of Christ’s birth, which starts with a Middle Eastern couple seeking shelter only to be turned away at every door. To those of us who call ourselves Christians, there is no justification for such an absence of compassion. No defense for such hypocrisy. These are not just a group of desperate refugees. They are our neighbors. Do we truly believe what Jesus taught? If so, is our faith more important than our fear? We wiggle and worm our way around so many other issues, justifying our little prejudices and vices. Not this one. Either you follow what Christ taught or you do not. There is no gray area. Not for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Anyone wondering what Jesus’ final word on the matter is can find it at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” That’s it. No excuses. No exceptions. Go. Love your neighbor. “Whatever you did for the least of these … you did for me.”

Fear cannot rule us because we are not cowards. We have always loved defiantly because we know that love conquers hate. It also conquers fear. Terror cannot crush it. So, let’s love defiantly.