It is with so much sadness that I comment on the death and terror in Paris. In our world, the disenfranchised are often the ones who make the loudest noises of protest, but the addition of violence mutes any claims they have to being heard. Martin Luther King and Gandhi advocated non-violence. Both seem to have been well heard. So how can we hear this group of people who have sponsored so much terror?
Additionally, it would be counterproductive to label them as radical Islam when so much of our democratic thinking is sharpened by left and right commentary and not by spiritual affiliation. But the term radical may be helpful here. When right and left listen to each other, they tend to balance the solutions through compromise, whereas when right and left solidify their positions, when listening is hard to find, extremism tends to grow. The current Speaker of the House is aware of the listening and healing that he has to foster in order to change the culture of the U.S. Legislature. So have we grown our own trouble in Syria and Iran by not listening as well as we can?
Can we do better in education? Could we run conversations in classrooms that honor not just left and right but also the radical thoughts that inevitably come up? The power of education is in drawing ideas out and placing them in the cradle of democracy. I would hope that we could, because if we can, we may be on the road to preventing stifled radical thinkers from turning to violence in order to make their point. Do you know someone in your local sphere of influence who expresses unpopular thoughts? Perhaps you can make a difference by giving them a really good listen? For all of our sakes in the future, and especially for the people who lost their lives last Friday, and also for all of the people connected to Paris around the world, perhaps we can listen better to each other, to make a better, more thoughtful world? Peace.