For people my age, we were too young to really remember 9/11. I may not be in France, but being in England brings along its own sense of fear after recent events. I think many young Americans, especially those who don’t remember 9/11, live in a blanket of ignorance and security when it comes to these events because we don’t see it. It’s far away. We almost feel unattached, but being abroad and traveling during this time leaves no option to feel this way.
When I heard about Paris, I was on a weekend trip to Ireland. I have been to 10 countries since traveling abroad, and France was one of them. We had planned to return to France, but instead decided to go visit other parts of the world. We could have easily been in Paris that weekend. One of my friends missed the attack by three days. Here I can’t feel unattached because I could have been there. I saw the refugees with my own eyes as we went across France and Germany. We have friends who have family in Paris. To watch them and hear them check on their loved ones is heartbreaking. It is unbearably nerve-wracking to hear all the new threats involving planes because we have to take one home. Cancelling trips, avoiding public transportation, fearing the possibility the horrors will reach you and knowing how nervous your family is that you are abroad is upsetting and terrifying.
I feel untouchable back home where I am surrounded by water and a giant military, and maybe that is ignorant of me. But it’s true, and I know many young adults back home feel the same. How many of you were aware of anything happening in Syria? How many knew about ISIS, Assad and the Kurds? Before Paris, I knew next to nothing. However, I am no longer ignorant.
This is what I want people my age back home to understand: This war, these acts of terrorism, this ever-present fear is real and it has been for years. It is terrifying. If you believe that these events reflect the beliefs of all those who are Muslim, you are ignorant. These are extremists the world is dealing with, and it is a shame that they are negatively affecting the image and reputation of Muslims. If you think ISIS is contained and is not a threat, you are wrong. I won’t dive into the past involvement of the U.S. in Syria. We cannot change the actions we have taken as far as our involvement in the war, but if you think that the solution is to do nothing or simply continue our level of activity, I urge you to remember how far westward they are moving and how much damage has already been done.
You can argue all day long about whether or not we have a duty, or even a right, to get involved with other countries’ business, war or struggle. One minute it is racist to stay out of conflict and thus means we supposedly only care about the safety of Westerners, but the next it is wrong, irresponsible and ignorant to insert ourselves in the business of the Middle East. It will always be a gray area. However, what is never, ever a gray area is the safety and security of our own people. Not because we are “better,” but because it is first and foremost the job of our government to protect its people.
I want people my age back home to understand that we are fighting a common enemy and it is not each other. It is a group of perverted extremists who terrorize innocent people, and for those who had doubts about whether or not it is our problem, I hope recent threats confirm that it is. I hope people who support both parties realize that both sides have lapses in judgment. On one side, we have been led into war under false pretenses. On the other side, we have a politician who has said the day after the attacks that climate change is still the greatest threat to national security and believes that the proper response to terrorist threats is to imply blame on climate change. While environmental concerns are incredibly important, I do not believe, in this moment, it’s our greatest security concern or the reason for ISIS’ actions. ISIS is a power hungry group that is using the mask of religion as an excuse to watch the world burn. Priorities must be re-evaluated and action must be taken.
I am grateful for the security and even the ignorance I feel at home. While I will now choose to no longer remain ignorant to the problems of the world, I hope America stays safe and secure enough that the option to live in blissful ignorance will exist. If the option to live in ignorance is there, that means we are not facing the horrors that currently exist in the Middle East, parts of Africa and France. Nevertheless, if we choose to do nothing, don’t accurately assess the danger or fail to stand united, I fear that option will cease to exist.
I associate feeling with color, and right now the world is orange, the color I associate with anxiety. However, despite everything, I still believe the world is beautiful. I will continue to enjoy my time here, because in the end, these terrorists are just people, men just as mortal as the rest of us. They are not unstoppable. The world is still full of people who will do the right thing, and it’s time for America to prove it.