2016 has been quite the little bitch, hasn’t she? We’ve lost musical geniuses, been caught up in Brexit and a bizarre (to say the least) U.S. Presidential election, grieved over increasing violence and terror … some days it seems the whole world is spinning out of control, hatred begetting violence and violence begetting hatred ad infinitum.
I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve gone to sleep with a dull sense of dread, but I probably don’t need to. I’m sure I’m not alone. It seems every day brings more bad news: Orlando, Istanbul, endless others … this month alone there have been 199 terror incidents around the world. How do we not grow numb from grief? Sometimes the numbers are hard to process, or the violence seems so far away, or we just need to shut it out so we can keep functioning.
But let us pause and acknowledge one moment in the horrible history of our world:
Last night, while her parents took her two younger sisters to some planned activities nearby, a thirteen-year-old girl crawled into bed. What did she imagine as she lay her head on that pillow? Did she have plans to play with friends the next day? Go swimming? Read a book? Did she dream of horses or dancing or boys? I’m betting she fell asleep confident there would be a tomorrow. Because at thirteen, why would she consider any other option?
But a seventeen-year-old boy broke into her home. While she slept, he drew a knife and stabbed her. Multiple times. She was transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition, and died shortly after.
She was thirteen.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in: She was thirteen. Do you remember thirteen? I do. I was into dance and soccer, wrote really bad stories about puppy love, dreamed about a boy I’d met at summer camp, wouldn’t admit I still played with my dolls, listened to Prince and Michael Jackson, traded Garbage Pail Kid cards … And yes, I had fears: I was pretty sure there was a ghost in my closet, and I knew about stranger danger and predators and Freddy Krueger. I’d stood in front of a bathroom mirror and whispered “Bloody Mary,” I’d played on a Ouija board. These were the scariest things I could imagine. But the possibility that a boy just a little older than me, fueled by hatred and rage, would break into my home and stab me to death … ? Unimaginable.
Now, if you’re paying attention to the news, you’ll know this happened in Israel’s West Bank—that the girl was Jewish and the boy Palestinian. I purposely left that information out until now. I wanted you to imagine this little girl without prejudice. Because today a mom and dad buried their daughter, and two young girls said goodbye to their oldest sister. Somehow, they’ll have to face a lifetime without her. Can you imagine? The fact that she’s a Jewish girl from the West Bank shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t.
Political agendas and misinformation and bigotry and anti-Semitism are thriving in our media … in our country … in our world. We’re being stripped of our humanity. We’re being taught that isolation and weapons and walls equal safety, we’re being radicalized in all kinds of ways. Hatred and evil are riding neck-and-neck with ignorance and intentional blindness. And this blindness: It’s born of laziness. More and more, we form our opinions without digging past the headline of a news story. We’re too busy to get informed. We’re too lazy.
And being blind and lazy allows hatred and bigotry to win. We need to educate ourselves. We need to read past the headlines, and do so with the knowledge that our news is not factual and unbiased, so we need to consider the source. And dig deeper. And read more.
Today, radicalized hatred killed a thirteen-year-old girl. But radicalized hatred cannot survive where education thrives.