“Terrorist” is a label. There is no humanity in labels. There is no compassion in labels. Labels create villains and idols. The pain of an individual who claims allegiance to a symbol of hate and righteousness and then kills without connection is extreme. However, that pain is not as extraordinary as it might seem. It is shared by all of us. This pain cannot be relieved by hunting, capturing, or killing labels, such as “terrorists” and “infidels.”
People who are most shocked by the violence in our world have the most to gain from looking inside themselves. The violence in our world comes from us. It is generated by the pain of wanting desperately to belong and not belonging, needing desperately to love and feeling unlovable, wanting intensely to love and feeling incapable, seeing ourselves as ugly inside, inherently flawed, and permanently defective. It is an ever-present ever-pressing need to be on the side of “God,” of “right,” of “good” regardless of the cost to others. This is the pain of powerlessness.
We experience powerless parts of our personalities as anger, rage, righteousness, judgment, and need for revenge. Acting on them creates the violence in the world. Those who actually pull triggers and detonate bombs are our proxy actors. Unchallenged pain of powerlessness in us fuels the violence them, and we see the results in Orlando, Paris, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and every country and culture. Who pulled the trigger in Orlando? Who detonated the bombs in Boston and Baghdad? Our proxies. We held the gun in our fantasies of powerlessness. They detonated the bombs in theirs. What does pulling triggers and detonating bombs accomplish? It creates more violence, more hatred, more righteousness, and more labels.
To end violence in our world requires the courage to look inside ourselves. It requires asking, “Do I pull the trigger in my thoughts? Do I detonate bombs in my imagination? How often?” Every judgment and fantasy of violence carries the same energy as attacks with bullets and bombs. Ending the violence in the world requires finding in ourselves the parts of our personalities that label fellow souls as “terrorists” and “infidels” and challenging them by not acting on them. These are the parts that perceive others as without Divinity, and they perceive us the same way. When we disparage, judge, despise, or label another individual, we become like that individual, and we contribute more of what we disparage, despise, and judge to the world. If we have no compassion for those who have no compassion, what is the difference between us?
Everyone who is grief-stricken and saddened by the violence in Orlando, in Paris, in the Middle East, by the violence of poverty that is everywhere and always, now has an opportunity to feel the pain of powerlessness inside and still choose to respond with compassion. This requires courage. Those who are outraged, righteous, and tormented by hatred have the same opportunity. In this we are brothers and sisters to those who disparage, despise, judge, and label us. We give to one another opportunities to choose love instead of fear, to change the world once and for all and for good. We offer one another the gift of love that underlies appearances of “ally” and “adversary” and is deeper than we can imagine.