Before the media and the politicians got ahold of the collective fear consciousness following last week’s attacks in Paris, individuals reacted naturally in the most vulnerable yet most generous way possible– by opening their doors and homes to strangers seeking shelter from the violence outside. How did the spontaneous hosts know whether or not to trust their guests? It seems unlikely that they were all equipped with sophisticated mobile retina-scanning record-checking intention-evaluating devices. But the alternative is even more inconceivable– a reckless act of hospitality. Only a suicidal sap would welcome a stranger in their home on the city’s most violent night in 3 generations? As the terror subsides and better judgment forms, leaders across the western world have adopted a much more appropriate response of blind prejudice, sweeping antagonism and tightly shut doors.
We would be fools not to respond to violence with preventative measures, and we would be insane not to learn from the circumstances that led to it, but we have as much to learn from our instincts for compassion as from any “intelligence” finding. The terrifying truth is, that we can’t truly prevent violence, and any policy that perpetuates that fantasy is a mistake. Violence is not a communicable disease that can be stamped out by breaking the pump of a single well, it’s best antidote actually comes from increased interactions between people.
The root of all violence is imbalance and as nations with more power, more resources and more wealth, we will be perpetual targets unless or until we correct the skew. Rather than relinquish our grip, however, we focus our efforts on building walls and closing doors, creating dark pockets and miserable purgatory for refugees that act as breeding grounds for suffering and hate. A person’s willingness to leave everything and risk what’s left to seek shelter in behind the walls of a stranger’s home is evidence enough of their desperate circumstances, and is reason enough to leave the door wide open.