Revenge or kindness — what’s your choice?

After an initial shocked silence, people around the world responded to the Paris attacks.

The news from Paris last Friday left the world stunned as 129 were killed and 352 were injured in a series of terrorist attacks in that city.

After an initial shocked silence, people around the world responded to the attacks.

On Facebook, some posted “Pray for Paris” messages, images of the Eiffel Tower or profile pictures in the colours of the French flag as a way of showing solidarity with the people of France.

On Twitter, Paris residents used the hashtag #PorteOuverte (or “open door”) to offer shelter to visitors stranded following the attacks.

The responses were tender and compassionate.

Some talked of the need to take action so such attacks will not happen again.

Then I looked at online news coverage and my heart sank. The comments following the stories took on a much harsher, much more aggressive tone.

The initial shock quickly gave way to blame, finger-pointing and calls for revenge and retaliation. Mourning was replaced with rage.

The anti-Islamic comments began to appear even before ISIS (the  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Some commenters used the opportunity to condemn Muslims in general, not just the extremists. Others went farther, stating that all religious beliefs are responsible for acts of violence and thus should have no place in our world.

Many said similar terrorist attacks would happen here at home in North America, if Canada and the United States continued to open their doors to allow Muslim refugees to live here.

Then there were the comments calling for an escalation of military force in Iraq, Syria and other countries affected by militant extremists. These comments quickly moved beyond the goal of stopping ISIS to a rallying cry for war.

Just two days before the Paris attacks, during Remembrance Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, people around the world had taken time to mourn the losses suffered during times of war. It seems the Nov. 11 calls for peace were quickly forgotten.

The search for someone to blame and the quest for retaliation brought out the worst in some as angry, harsh words appeared in the comments. Many responded with emotion and extreme outbursts rather than thoughtful consideration.

If the online commenters have as much pent-up fury as what I saw on my computer screen, there is good reason for concern.

What will it take to push some of these people from typing words of rage to unleashing acts of rage?

How much will it take before some decide to move from harsh words posted online to vigilante justice or a militant mob out for revenge?

Such incidents have happened in recent years, including in Europe and the United States.

Even a few such attacks can have a huge impact, escalating an already tense situation.

It’s easy to view acts of violence as something entirely separate from the online comments which appeared following the Paris attacks, but doing so would be a mistake.

The power of unchecked rage must not be overlooked.

Words can lead to deeds. Attitudes can manifest themselves as actions. And anger can escalate until it culminates in violence and eventually in war.

Friday’s attacks in Paris are tragic, senseless acts of violent extremism.

How we react will determine what happens next.

We may not be able to change the world, but we have the power to choose to respond with revenge or with kindness.

What’s your choice?

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
EDITORIAL: High marks for Canada’s democratic process

Accusations of widespread corruption do not hold up

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue an apology for Canada’s treatment of Itaian-Canadians during the Second World War. (CPAC)
COLUMN: Apologizing for an uncomfortable wartime decision

Canada’s government will apologize for its treatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

The BC Wildfire Service is urging caution amid forecasts of strong winds throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre. (BC Wildfire Service photo)
Strong winds forecasted for Kamloops Fire Centre, BC Wildfire service urges caution

“Wind can cause grass fires to spread very quickly,” says the BC Wildfire Service

Are you considering any ambitious home renovation projects? The Okanagan Regional Library can help. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Redecorate your home with help from the library

Plenty of resources in place for home decoration projects

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

BC Wildfire Service
Small wildfire ignites in the Shuswap

The blaze is about 10 km east of the Squilax Bridge

A screen capture from Chris “Sky” Saccoccia’s Twitch live stream of his rally in Kelowna’s Stuart Park on April 22, 2021. (therealchrisskytv/Twitch.tv)
Anti-mask activist Chris Sky descends on Kelowna, incites violation of COVID-19 health orders

The appearance is part of Chris “Sky” Saccoccia’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ that is currently travelling cross-country

Vernon RCMP are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who allegedly pointed a firearm at two people outside a downtown business Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Contributed)
Man who brandished firearm in downtown Vernon sought by police

Video surveillance image shows man pointing what investigators believe to be a handgun April 10

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RauDZ pop-up patio located on Pandosy Street in front of The Okanagan Table. (Contributed: Audrey Surrao)
Kelowna restaurant gets creative to adjust to new health orders

The owners of RauDZ Regional Table open ‘pop-up patio’ to adjust to health order banning indoor dining

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

The City of Vernon has placed 30th in Macleans.ca’s poll of the 415 best communities to live in Canada. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan city high on Macleans’ list of best places to live in Canada

Vernon ranked No. 30, fifth-highest in province and best ranking outside Vancouver Island; Halifax No. 1

Waterfront owners on Kalamalka Lake might want to check their docks, as one was spotted floating around the Oyama end of the lake Thursday, April 22. (Nick Clements photo)
‘Anyone lose a dock?’ in North Okanagan

Wooden structure spotted at south end of Kalamalka Lake

Most Read