Choose flesh, not stone

by Aqeela Naqvi

If you watch one video this week, PLEASE make it this one.

“The footage purports to show a father reuniting with his young son, who he thought had been killed…[accompanied by] grateful recitations of the Takbir (“Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!”).” Raw emotion. Naked humanity. There is nothing censored, edited, airbrushed about the anguish on a father’s face when he thinks his son dead; or the intense happiness in his eyes when he sees him alive.

If ‘war’ is simply another phrase you hear tossed around everyday to the point where its mention no longer shocks you; if you’ve come to take ‘casualties’ at face-value so that numbers dead are normal headlines; if eyes of victims in photographs run over you instead of through you, halting with the intensity of their pain—please, watch this video.

If you are brave enough to question the truths of your world—watch this video.

And if, after watching, you can still stand behind those that want to walk into our homes, divide us, conquer us, “we” us and “them” us, all before we’ve had time to set the table for tea, then I believe this is that road at which we must part.

If you see this father’s tears, hear him repeating over and over, “Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds,” and ignore how many oceans could be filled, how many trails could be blazed, with the tears of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, across the world, we must part roads.

If you see their olive skin, hear their foreign words, and distance their grief from your heart, as if the ocean were a solid barrier that could bar them from your touch, we must part roads.

If you see this video as irrelative to you; if you believe every hurting and oppressed race, nation, group, is not one and the same; if you think their struggle is not my struggle; if you ignore that humans exist in all colors but they only bleed in one—then today, we must part roads.

Because at this crossroads, the path does not stretch wide enough for both love and hate to pass. Truth will never walk shouldered to falsehood, and light will never gesture the way to darkness.

Today is a pivotal moment in history. Today is not a photograph in a textbook—a boycott, a protest, a rally; a refusal to change bus seats, or choose prison over taxes. Today wears the face of unadulterated grief. Today speaks the name of foreign countries, intervention, oppression, and resistance. Today stands at a crossroads and waits for our instruction. Will your voice speak reason and direct it to lay down its arms, or will ignorance consume you and direct it to destruction?

Today is the day you will look back on, the day you either allow your heart to be flesh, to see its scars as strength; or the day you regard scars as weakness, and choose to guard yourself in stone, neither reachable, nor reaching, to others.

When you look back, I hope that you will have chosen flesh, not hardness. And when stone scraped you and laughed at your fragility, I hope you will have said: “I choose flesh, the flesh that runs on lion’s bones, that both strikes with fury and embraces with a touch. I am flesh that fells Goliaths in battle; flesh whose blood spills and topples thrones of tyrants; flesh that guards a spirit so pure that, when exalted, stands a blinding beauty, a glorious roar.

“I am flesh and I choose not war, not machines, not the hardness of steel. I choose that ‘infinitely more arduous’ battle—I choose peace: the tenderness, the softness, the gentleness of smiles.

“I am flesh, and if there is anything hard in me, it is the strength that grips the hands of those who have been pushed to the ground.

“And though I may not be an expert on world policy, I know enough to question the information I’m given, no matter where it comes from; I may not hold a fancy degree, but I know that one innocent death is one too many; I may not believe what my brother believes, but I know he remains my brother just the same; and I may not know why loving is one letter short of living, but I know hatred is short far too many.

“I am flesh and though I may stand opposite the executioner proclaiming a Greater Good, I would rather face the axe than salute to a greatness built on innocent blood.”

The world’s a sphere, not a mountain. The grief we cause others doesn’t cascade downward and settle in an abyss somewhere never to be thought of again. Hatred is a boomerang that when thrown outward returns to us with equal force.

Choose your road carefully. Know that the greater good is the one that beats in hearts—it does not rise from foundations of stone. Choose that great destiny for which you are meant, not the copper-medal-contest they wish for you to race in.

Choose to be flesh. Let your life, your reason, your direction, never be hate.

Choose love.

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