What can we do?
It’s not just these trolls, of course, that we need to be on guard against. It’s our own triggers, feelings, and fears. Our desire for vengeance, to protect ourselves against what we perceive as a direct danger to us and our loved ones.
Two very smart men have a message about all that for us. First, a few words by Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Ph.D., who is minister of Maidenhead synagogue in England.
The attack, he wrote in The Guardian, “forces us to reassess daily acts that we have taken for granted up to now: is it safe to travel on buses? Might it be best not take the children to a funfair?”
Worst of all is the sense of vengeance it evokes in us, wanting to lash out and hurt those whom we – however lacking in evidence – associate with the bomber; at the same time, we instinctively raise drawbridges and seek to isolate ourselves from groups other than “our own”.
What all these responses have in common is that they are negative reactions, and although totally understandable, they lessen us rather than enhance us. We are being offered sugar-coated poison and should refuse it.
What is needed is reassurance on two levels. First, the reassurance that our way of life will continue. More security checks may now be necessary, but concert halls will still function, public transport will still run. We want there to be a tomorrow and we want it to resemble today.
Second, the reassurance that our values are still intact. Society will still be based on law and justice. Cross-communal events and inter-faith dialogue will carry on, social and cultural events will still flourish. Doing what is noble, speaking the truth, loving our neighbours as ourselves – they will all remain.
With time and help, we can cope with personal shock and we can overcome individual trauma, but what we fear most is our social structures being derailed and losing everything that hundreds of years of gradual progress have achieved.
And Vox correspondent Carlos Maza put together a brilliant video that addresses the “smotherage” that television, especially cable TV news, provides in moments like these. It’s not wrong to be sucked in, it’s what most of us do; but what can we do when we need to save our own sanity? How do you break the chain? The key, he found, is to not lose our heads and ignore the messages our brain is sending us while taking in all these scary images.
In three words: turn it off.