After the recent attacks on Paris, what happens next? What kind of world do we want to live in?
I remember being 12 and watching my country bomb Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. I remember wondering if girls like me in Baghdad were looking up at the fire in the sky from homes like mine, wondering if they were going to be all right.
I’m in my 30s now and I still wonder what happened to the people I thought about that night. I grew up, went to college, got married and moved to a new city. What about the people in Baghdad? Did those girls grow up happy? Did they flee during the war that occurred after 9/11? Do they have kids? Are they still running? Are they happy?
The movies make war seem glorious and brilliant. Sure, there are always moments of great heroism, battles that save the day and wins for the good guys. But you don’t often see the cost of that victory. In the movies, you don’t see the innocent people who live where the war is taking place or what happens to them when they have to run.
Teens in many parts of the world today know the reality of what happens after war invades a country. They see thousands of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq on their smartphones and on their televisions. They have questions that their parents and teachers can’t always answer.
I had many of those questions when I was 16 and Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City. The following week, I saw a Time magazine cover with the headline, “The Face Of Terror,” depicting a white man.
God loves all of his children, wherever they may be, whoever they may be. He wants everyone to be safe, whether they already have happy homes or if they are refugees searching for a safe place to live.
Following the attacks on Paris, what happens now? What kind of world do we want?
Ten years from now, the teens reading this column will be poised to make a distinct difference in the world. They will be nurses in hospitals and aides in the White House. They will be studying and practicing journalism and developing apps in Silicon Valley. They will be making decisions to help our world become a better place.
What kind of world do you want?
Don’t you want a world where everyone can live in peace? Where war is an afterthought? Where people feel that they don’t have to flee their homes to survive? Where nobody has to look up and see a fire in the sky and wonder whether they’re going to make it through the night?
You are going to build that world, one without bombs, without guns brandished at innocent people, without the need for civilians to flee everything they’ve ever known. It will be a world of light, where people are judged not by “the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” as Martin Luther King Jr. said.
It’s a world you can start building in schools and streets. It’s a world you can start building in your community. It’s a world where everyone gets a chance to be happy and gets the chance to speak out against war. It’s a world where everyone can stop looking at race and class and happily invite all sorts of people to eat at the table.
Teens, it’s your world now. Start building the peace you want today.