I picture the faces of all the kids that I know personally. Children of family members and friends. Leo Jan, Zaynab, Kai, Zoha, Leena, Connor, Malia, Avery, Owen, Kate, Ola, Jack, Eric, Amaan, Marwa, Hadi, Shahram…..I can count around 30.
I imagine them playing at the park, cheeks flushed with exertion and joy, little hands sticky with cotton candy and juice, grass stains on their knees from running after each other, falling down and getting right back up again.
The sun is setting. Soon it will be time to go home, clean up and get ready for bedtime.
I imagine a thunderous sound, a wave of raging energy, knocking them down, tearing them apart. No bedtime, no laughter. Nothing. Except a ringing in my ears that won’t go away.
I brush my teeth, I go to bed, I wake up, I go to work, I smile, I nod. I get through the day. The darkness that’s been vignetting my view is starting to creep in.
The kids are gone.
There’s blood on the grass in the park and that’s all that remains of them.
My community is gone.
Drowned in sorrow. Swallowed whole by rage. Unable to remain standing in the face of such violence, incapable of healing such deep damage. The love among those left behind is unable to withstand the profound lack of hope and sadness that’s been thrust into our lives.
The 30 kids that died in the Lahore bombing this week were not the children of my family or friends. I did not know their names. I did not help them learn how to walk. I did not do cartwheels with them at the park. But they were someone’s little ones, someone’s most precious love.
It fills my heart with black, malevolent anger to think of the people that sat in the parking lot right next to the children’s swings, biding their time to explode. I’m mad! RAGING FUCKING MAD! I feel no empathy. I want these fuckers to feel the pain that they’ve caused. I want to be the one that makes them feel it.
I see my rage mirrored among Pakistani friends on Facebook and Whatsapp as they debate, blame and shame each other. Who is responsible! The army? The government? The Americans? The Taliban? The West, that doesn’t give a fuck and is trying to turn this into a “Pakistani Muslim kills Christians” story? France for not turning the Eiffel Tower into Pakistani colors in support of this tragedy? Someone! Anyone! Our rage needs a target. Any target.
I remember the Pakistan I grew up in. It was tolerant. My parents would go for dinner, dancing and the movies. Boys and girls played together in the streets. TV shows celebrated young love without feeling the need to make it dirty. Kites soared high on basant, wedding parties ran long into the night, the middle class of Pakistan was thriving. There were norms and ritual but there was little persecution for not following them. People respected decorum and values.
I also remember it all change. It wasn’t overnight but it was palpable even as it took hold. The radicalization of Pakistan was a well funded cold war-era campaign. Religious schools with extreme messages popping up, radical mosques on every corner, ultimate government control of social media and news. Mind wash and systematic desensitization of the population to messages of pure hate. Zero investment in education or welfare of ordinary citizens because the 2-family political parties take turns fucking the country over. Combine this with the feeding frenzy that foreign defense money has created. It has evaporated the middle class and put in it’s place a cannibalistic system that rewards blind looting of itself over the principle of contributing and creating value in the world. Finally, layer on top of this, meddlesome neighbors because Pakistan is one strategic piece of real estate, caught between the titans. What you get is One Big Cluster-Fuck.
And then I hear Mr. Trump. How he rouses sentiments of hate under the banner of making us GREAT again. How he gives people permission to be their ugliest selves and feel good and righteous about it.
All of us have infinite darkness within us that has the ability to swallow the entire world. If you’re sitting here thinking you don’t have it in you to be a bomber just like the asshole in Lahore, you don’t know the perversion of your own reptile brain. You have not named him or claimed him yet. In the moment I heard about the bombing, the moment I envisioned those children being blown to bits, I briefly saw the ugliest part of me. The part that knows no reason. The part that’s incapable of empathy. The part that demands revenge and destruction. The part that’s looking for a target. Any target.
As much as I would love to have a solution to it all – something elegant and simple, like the singularly true answer to a puzzle – I have nothing to offer except a pure stream of consciousness.