You wouldn’t believe how light a bomb feels in the cradle of your own arms.
I remember the warm yellow sand of Batticaloa beaches, pillowy grains sifting between the grooves of my size two feet. Seaweed lined the shore in slimy patches that we tiptoed around, searching for shells hidden among the green carpet. A brisk wind bounced along the rolling tide, and yet all we could feel were the steady waves of the sun beating down on our backs. With a toothy grin and an oversized cap perched on my head, I posed for a photo, brandishing in my arms a landmine the size of my head.
That day, we celebrated the success of my grandfather’s initiative to demine the Batticaloa beaches, and usher in an era of peace following the terror of the Tamil Tigers. We must have been standing only a few miles from one of the eight bombs detonated in Sri Lanka this past Easter.
Irony is cruel, the twist of a knife I felt that morning and every morning since the tragedy. I opened my eyes on Easter morning to the news of over 250 dead, on a day meant to celebrate the beauty of life.
There are over 250 Sri Lankans that, after that day, never opened their eyes again.
That morning and in the mornings that followed, I scrolled through feeds flooded with snapshots of broken buildings and bloodied church walls. Article after article, tweet after tweet blended into one until the overwhelming monotony of it all overcame me.
Dead. Dead. Dead. Attack. Attack. Attack. Islamist. Islamist. Islamist.
Reform? Reason? Change?
The words seemed to be missing. Again. Quickly I realized that what I felt wasn’t monotony, but deja vu. We’ve seen this before.
This past year has rendered our media and news sources broken records, and the Sri Lanka bombings are yet another cycle of ear piercing pitches that will mellow out only to shatter us again with the next tragedy. With every crescendo we rise, uniting together with a single vow to ensure that past events never transpire again, that this time things will be different. We think and pray and maybe even march for a cause, take part in a desperate search for a guilty party to pin our sorrow on as if that’ll bring back the people we lost.
But it won’t.
If we don’t change, neither will our fate.
Sandy Hook, we mourned. San Bernardino, we wept. Parkland, we marched. Las Vegas, we prayed. Pittsburgh, we grieved. New Zealand, we screamed. Sri Lanka, we watch. As you bury your people we embark on a quest to bring justice, too enveloped in our own blind zeal to recognize that justice is served not in prison sentences or punishments, but in preventing such violence so that no parent, sibling, or child has to endure the same pain that you have. In becoming so fixated on playing this twisted blame game, we forget that people of all religions and races have been targeted by senseless violence. That Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike have all been laid to rest too young.
We fail to realize that maybe religion isn’t the problem. Hate is.
You can’t fight fire with fire, and yet we’ve been trying for decades to silence hate by propagating it. We shove it into tiny manicured boxes that disguise our craving for vengeance as a crusade against the evildoers that threaten the peace of our society.
But pitchforks can’t erase the pain. Spitting torches won’t stop another hateful person from picking up a gun and opening fire. From detonating a bomb in a church full of innocents.
This act of violence will slowly, but surely fade into the backdrop of a long list of nations and races we send our ‘thoughts and prayers’ to every time a tragedy makes it’s way into our headlines - if we let it. To allow it to become one with our treacherous cycle of violence and vengeance is to deny justice to all those who have suffered at the hands of the hate. The day we can look back on the attacks like this in our history not with fury, but with hope and the willingness to fight for a better future, we can say that we have delivered justice.
I will not forget. I will not foment. I will be the change I’ve been waiting to see.
I will not hate. I will not wait. I’ll be the person that helps change our fate.
Sri Lanka, the teardrop island off the Indian coast weeps for what it has lost. We wipe it’s tears, dust ourselves off, and march onwards, hand in hand. We brandish kindness as our weapon, don the armor of unity, and with each step usher forth a long awaited era of peace.
You wouldn’t believe how light the prospect of a harmonious future feels in the cradle of your own arms. I would know. I held it in the form of a disarmed bomb, relishing in the warm breeze blowing off Batticaloa’s coast.