In the wake of the Boston Bombings, I’ve deliberately taken my time to observe people’s reactions before offering my own response. It has been interesting to see what people have been reporting, saying, and posting. The two predominant points of view that have come up on my social media feeds are 1. from those people point out that there are other places in the world that face the same or worse circumstances a lot more often, and 2. from those who have shown love, sympathy, and solidarity for their American counterparts. Either way, this week’s events have left a bitter after-though in the form a question: What’s happening to the US?
With its icons of the politics, business, media and and pop-culture; whose work influences and shapes the lives of people even in some of the most remote parts of the world; the impact that American culture has on world is so extensive and prominent in people’s lives, that we usually take it for granted. As an African, I hope that my continent will also one day leave such an indelible mark – one that will contribute to the global cause of peaceful progress. As for some of my own ties to the country; my parents shared a part of their lives there together, and I still have family – a sister who – lives there.
I try not to be too quick in expressing my opinion about anything that tugs on the heartstrings (as you may have gathered). I have come across nothing so far – music, anthems, poetry, or prose – that captures in a few words the message I want to put across. So, I write this because I have something to say (not because I have to say something) in light of my relationship with the United States: as an individual, as an African, and as a world citizen.
Two of the things that I believe are fundamental to life are this: love for a cause greater than your own, and relationship with others. In fact, I take those things as given. There is some thing that each of us loves or ‘worships’ more than any other; and this object of our affection subtly but definitely affects the way we relate to everything and everyone around us. How we take control of that comes down to one thing: choice. What we put that love into is indeed our own choice; it could be a physical thing, an activity, a person, ourselves… anything. And the love we get back from this thing (love shouldn’t just flow in one direction) indirectly determines the love we show to others.
I have chosen to invest my love in my God, and to try let that love determine how I see myself and how I relate to those around, in a way that reflects what is Christians call the ‘fruits of the spirit’. Let me emphasise my use of the word ‘try’ here; it is a life-long process. (I have a lot to say about religion – religious extremism, rather – and the hurt it seem to be cause in the world, but I will leave that for another time).
Here is what I have to say, and it comes from the heart. For every person who calls themselves American, for every person living in the United States, for everyone affected by some act of terrorism or violence, and for every other person on (and off) this planet: I pray for you peace; and that faith and hope shine bright for you always. Most importantly, I pray that you come to know a kind of love that not only fills your own life to the brim, but overflows into the lives of every single person around you. All of this, I have found in God.