One of the first things that came to my mind when I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris last year and in Brussels last month was how afraid I was, even though I was thousands of miles from the city that was attacked.
Then I realized that if I was that scared thousands of miles away, how terrifying was it for the people who live in that country, the people in that town, the people standing in the same room as the attackers?
But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? The attacks are designed to cause fear. Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) plan their attacks with the goal of spreading fear throughout the world. They want to make us afraid to leave our countries, afraid to fly on airplanes, afraid to take metros and subways, even afraid to leave our homes.
I spent part of spring break this year in Washington, D.C., with the mass communication department, and we spent a lot of our time traveling by metro. I always hear about people profiling strangers around them, but I didn’t realize how easy it is to do until I was standing next to three young men clearly speaking in a Middle Eastern language. I’ve spent time in other countries and in cities with high populations of people who don’t speak English, so I wasn’t surprised at first to hear them speaking behind me in a foreign language. But when I turned around and saw their appearance and paid attention to the language that they were speaking, I caught myself feeling afraid for no other reason than the way those men looked.
I watched them talk to each other and tell jokes that I didn’t understand. One of them saw me watching and even smiled at me. That was when my fear melted away. Sure, they could’ve been terrorists. But so could the lady standing on the other side of the platform with a large build in her arms or the couple talking under their breaths standing just a few feet away. My profiling them didn’t do anything except fill my mind with more fear than standing on a subway platform should ever cause.
Later that same day, there was a fire on one of the metro cars in D.C. that caused the metro to shut down for emergency maintenance. When I first heard that there was a fire, my first thought was that today was the day that the attacks had come back to the U.S., and I was caught in the middle of it. But it wasn’t. It was just your average electrical fire that was no more planned than the South Carolina flood in October.
The point of the attacks was to make people like me afraid to do ordinary things such as riding the metro to get to a museum. But I don’t want to be afraid to fly. I don’t want to be afraid to see the world because of the small chance that a group of evil men might target the places I visit.
Fear is captivating. And I’m done being a captive. Don’t let fear keep you from living your life to the fullest because if you do, they win. And their victory is not something I am willing to accept.
Don’t be afraid.