They don’t know.

Them, the vile, medieval terrorists, unjustly killing in the name of Islam. They don’t know better but to dare try and take away our liberty. They don’t know that we stand together, strong and tall. That we have long before them fought for our ideals, implemented our values and cultivated our rights.

They don’t know that they are up against a nation that isn’t afraid of expressing itself and rising up. They have forgotten about Descartes, Camus and Robespierre, and all the writers, philosophers, artists, politicians and scientists that have enlightened and fueled us with the unbreakable power to protect ourselves and to protect others; who have taught us to never give up no matter the circumstances. They don’t remember that we have rebelled and resisted a myriad of enemies for centuries, and that no force was ever strong enough to break us.

They must find it despicable, I guess, to let others practice the religion they choose, to be fraternal and to treat individuals equally regardless of color, gender, age and ethnicity. They must find it despicable to smile walking down the street, to dance to music, to drink wine at night, to fall in love with a stranger and to live the romance of a Parisian cliché.

It must be a crime, I guess, to be happy.

But we, ourselves, also don’t seem to know. That our politics are too complex and divergent. That there is imperfect information between civilians and politicians. That international cooperation has gone rogue. That we should never have to guess the true intentions of our governments in foreign policy.

We seem to have forgotten that the invaluable lessons we learn as children are, more than ever, applicable today. That the ends don’t justify the means. That sincerely asking, “What’s wrong?” can make a vital difference. That attempting to understand another culture should not lead to attacking it harder than it attacked us, but to a peaceful path. We seem to have forgotten that sitting at the same table and setting the right objectives is paramount.

They should know that they can sit with us, the same way that we should sit with them.

It shouldn’t be too hard, then, to remember the chaos of living through war and the hardships of recovering from battles. The feeling of falling asleep to the sound of gunshots and bombings. The sight of blood and lifeless bodies in the streets.

Do words need to be terrifying for them to be heard?

Our work isn’t done, we are not done. Great powers have greater responsibilities – the duty to implement human rights peacefully, to lend a hand, to help others, to teach younger nations and most importantly, to show the example.

For our families, for our friends, for them and for our future generations.

– Anne-Lise Sharbatian is a French-American sophomore double majoring in economics and finance. 

Photo courtesy Garry Knight, Creative Commons