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Easter, Terrorism, and the Human Race in General
Most of us are actually not that bad
Whether you believe the story of Easter is literally true or not, you have to admit that the holiday commemorates a classic story of something good coming out of a tragedy. Jesus was brutally crucified, but when he rose again on that first Easter Sunday, it signified that salvation was now possible for everyone. These days, my Easter celebration is limited to Easter eggs, good food, and time with family. But I am still able to appreciate the more positive imagery within Christianity and other religious traditions.
At the moment, we can certainly use stories of hope. At the time of this writing, it has been one week since the terrorist attacks in Brussels. And while this has rightfully received a great deal of attention, attacks like these that occur on an almost daily basis throughout the Muslim world get fewer headlines in “the West.” There is an element of ethnocentrism in this, but there is also the fact that terrorist attacks in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia don’t feel particularly newsworthy. News has to be unusual to be news.
In addition to being horrified by the types of attacks that took place in Brussels, there are always a variety of opinions expressed regarding the simple question of what should be done. What are the best ways to stop these attacks from happening in the future? Obviously, this is a question that continually needs to be asked. But when we are getting mad at leaders or listening to candidates for office make promises about what they would do to defeat terrorism, it is important to remember a simple truth: it is not very hard to carry out a terrorist attack. One person who is willing to die and possesses a powerful gun can do a hell of a lot of damage in a large crowd. A few people with basic bomb making skills can do even more.
We expect our various security forces to keep us safe, but we all know that it is impossible for them to monitor all locations and to both identify and closely monitor all potentially dangerous people. All things considered, it is remarkable that terrorist attacks do not happen more often. The same can be said about crime in general. The presence of security forces and the fear of punishment, therefore, must not be the main factors in preventing anarchy in the streets. Instead, the streets (of economically advanced areas anyway) are basically safe because most people have no desire to commit any major crimes. Most of us don’t want to assault, kill, or steal from others, and the idea of carrying out major terrorist attacks has never crossed our minds. In spite of our many flaws, most of us humans treat our fellow humans with a basic level of decency. We follow the really important laws because we believe in them.
As I stated before, news has to be unusual to be news. Because we assume that decency is the default position, evil acts are inherently newsworthy. This is why the simple acts of human decency that happen on a daily basis are generally ignored and taken for granted. But for every horrible act committed by a human being, there must be countless positive things done for others or at minimum minute-by-minute decisions to not do any major harm. Yes, a small number of people can do an enormous amount of damage. But so long as there are more basically decent people than violent criminals, the world is not a lost cause. Terrorists want to drag us all down into their hellhole, but we need to try and remember that there are more of us than them and to be thankful that we have something worth living for.