It’s a beautiful, crisp day in Tennessee. The sky is a clear blue, the clouds wispy and unthreatening. Tech’s campus is alive and well, abuzz with excitement over Homecoming and Thanksgiving break. For many of us, our greatest fear is being unable to survive through Dead Week. We are safe in our bubble. America, the world’s largest island.
Meanwhile in France, what CNN has dubbed the greatest act of terrorism since World War II struck Friday night. Individual gunmen targeted Paris, massacring the innocent public. They scattered their attacks: a soccer tournament between France and Germany, a rock concert performed by an American band, a popular Cambodian restaurant and a pizza restaurant. When the slaughter came to an end, 132 people were confirmed dead. Additionally, 350 innocents were injured. ISIS took responsibility for the genocide.
Have you ever noticed that the most tragic events always seem to bring people together more closely than our most treasured holidays? In the aftermath, French authorities urged the public to call their loved ones, even issuing official numbers to use for international calls. Leaders worldwide took a united stand with France in this obvious act of intimidation. The threat of war between France and ISIS has become heavy in the air, like the dark veil before a violent thunderstorm.
ISIS. Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Most Americans with a television or radio know they are terrorists; they storm Twitter, recruit new members internationally and threaten to infiltrate every country that piques their concern. They are a global threat. The natives of their own countries are fleeing their homeland by the thousands. As far as storms go, this one may be a twister.
The news concerns us. We furrow our brows, talk in hushed, concerned tones, before glancing at the clock and rushing to the next item on our to-do list. What are we waiting for before we decide to take action? I speak of average American citizens. At the moment, the U.S. has been leading international airstrikes on ISIS’ central location in an effort to weaken them. Our military is doing its part. What about our citizens?
Americans did not join the fight during World War II until our own Pearl Harbor was bombed. The world’s most powerful countries were engaged in a deadly struggle with a violent enemy, and the U.S. government had a plan. But we waited until a tragedy struck on our own soil before we jumped in the action. And every American got involved. War bonds abounded, and men and women became more equal than ever seen before in our country as they rose to the fight. We managed to take a terrible situation and turn it into an opportunity for growth.
How will we face this epic battle on our hands? ISIS has already proven they are a serious enemy. They are united by one thing, which has never before been a danger to our world: social media. They multiply members and spread fear by targeting the most central form of communication in first-world countries. We can fight on the ground or in air, but how can we wage battle on Twitter?
I do not know the answer to my questions. But I am hoping that someone in our midst has a few good ideas. As I have mentioned before, I don’t have the most outspoken political voice. But I do not see this issue as one of politics. This is a threat to our world. Maybe we are thinking like cats; we’ll keep our heads down, take refuge in a quiet corner when danger threatens, and land on our feet when the storm blows over. What else can we do, right? Not everyone was made to be a soldier.
But when it comes to this issue, I just cannot agree to a passive stance. How is it justifiable to keep silent and still when the world is in upheaval? Passivism in this case is not promoting peace. Peace is not the absence of fighting, but fighting for what’s right.
What exactly does ISIS fight for? Here is a condensed summary: they want to create an Islamic state in the Middle East. This sounds so simple yet has led to so much terror that has far overstretched the borders of their original location. If their only goal was to create an Islamic state, why would they target innocent people enjoying Paris’ nightlife on an ordinary Friday night? We would be fools to pretend they won’t try to push their influence farther.
I cannot imagine how the refugees of Syria and Iraq must feel. They are being pushed from their home into territory they have never experienced before. The Irish Potato Famine, the migration of English outcasts to Australia, the smuggling of African prisoners to American soil. These new migrants are about to join the ranks with history’s largest immigrant movements. How can we turn away so many families seeking shelter?
I am not the most informed civilian. I catch clips of the news as I rush out the door, coffee in hand. Just like the next busy college student. But I am a college student. I have taken that privilege for granted for far too long, and crises such as this remind me of my privilege. They also remind me of my responsibility to take interest in the world around me. This is my future. This is my profession.
But truly I speak to every privileged human being within earshot. Don’t ignore the world around you. You have a responsibility to stay informed and, when you see your chance, to act.