All sorts of people are contemplating weighty decisions these days. Dialogue about recent terrorist acts are wrought with critical questions. Do we close our borders to refugees? Do we welcome those fleeing from their violent homelands?
What is the moral response? What is the Christian response? How do we keep our nation safe?
And we all react differently: with anger, despair, sadness, indignation, resolve, resignation, rage, hopelessness . . . the list could go on and on.
Consider this quote from The Houston Chronicle:
During times of terror, murder, and violence, political leaders will make decisions that protect their own innocent citizens from harm. Yet what about the innocent who are left in the crossfire? Of the Syrian refugees being referred by the United Nations for settlement, more than half are children under the age of 18. A large proportion of them are women or elderly men. The protocol for admittance under refugee guidelines takes an average of 18 to 24 months during a rigorous screening process. Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute says, “The refugee resettlement program is the least likely way for a terrorist to infiltrate the United States.”
I am not writing to set forth yet another argument on this subject. People much more knowledgable than I are already doing that. But I was reminded just now of a day in our past that was also a time of crisis. And I loved Leonard Bernstein’s response and his reaction to the crisis. Here is his story.
In the days that followed the assassination of President Kennedy there were many heart-wrenching musical moments, like the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony the day before Leonard Bernstein gave an unforgettable speech at Madison Square Garden. His remarks include these words:
“This sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather it will inflame our art . . . This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
My decision or yours on how to respond to violence will not likely change the course of terrorism in the world. Nevertheless, each of us must own our own responses to crisis.
Most of us are not talented enough to make music. But I hope that my response to crisis will be to act “more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” And by the way, making our own kind of music, whatever that might be, is not a bad idea.