Living in a time of Terrorist Violence

Jun 26, 2017

It seems that increasingly we are both witness and victim to more and more terrorist attacks across the world. These attacks, largely perpetrated by members or supporters of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (or ISIS, for short), shatter our sense of safety in our daily lives. We all know that traveling to countries facing civil war and violence put us in direct risk. However, what do we do when these attacks seem to know no bounds? England, America, and Australia (to name a few) have all come under attack in brazen and vicious ways.

Some attacks target large gatherings of people in hopes of doing the most damage and creating the biggest spectacle (the attack in Manchester, being a notable recent example) while others seem to indiscriminately target anyone literally anywhere. And while the specter of attacks in large places is very real, perhaps the more unsettling reality is that these things can happen when you’re walking to the supermarket or just at a stoplight in town. Even if we are lucky enough to not be directly injured by these attacks, they inevitably change our thinking and feelings when going about our daily lives. And this is what we need to be careful of. Do we stop going to concerts and gatherings because we fear another terrorist attack? Do we stop going outside because at any moment someone could drive their car into us? Do we stop our children from engaging with the world in this way?

What we risk, if we allow ourselves to filter our lives in this way, is that our lives become something very different. The aim is more about constantly assessing risk and possibly overblowing such risk while negatively affecting our quality of life. Whenever we step outside of our homes, we are at risk of being hit by, for example, a drunk driver. The numbers of alcohol-related fatalities and injuries are much higher than those of terrorist-related violence yet we don’t restrain our lives because of these risks. We accept that they are, unfortunately, a part of how people act but we know that to sit in a bunker for the rest of our lives is not the answer.

After such terror-related tragedies, authorities always seem to make a point to citizens that they should report “suspicious” activities. And while we certainly should be vigilante and observant of our surroundings, we also don’t want this to be the gateway to excuse racism under the guise of safety and security.

So what do we do? We continue without minimizing or neglecting the feelings we do have. We take the time needed to grieve, mourn and process the death of loved ones and the reality of extremist attacks but we also don’t allow ourselves to live a life that becomes unrecognizable. This isn’t about whether the terrorists “win” by forcing us to change our lives. This is about not letting ourselves lose what we have and cherish.

About the Column

Luke Lee

Luke is a mental health counselor from Seattle, Washington in the United States. He moved to Suzhou in 2016 and currently works as the Psychological Counselor for international students at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Though his current position consists of counseling students, Luke also enjoys working with couples, parents and families. Previously Luke worked in the Kurdish region of Iraq and in private practice in Seattle. In his spare time Luke enjoys cooking, meeting new people, playing board games and traveling to different countries.

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