What does one think when I say the word “Europe”?
When hearing that name I used to think of countries I wished to visit, food I wanted to taste, and languages to learn. When I mention it now, whether to a friend or a simple Google search, another word pops up: terrorism.
Living in France during a year filled with fear and hate has been eye opening, to say the least. During each attack in Europe, both Paris and Brussels, I received an abundance of “are you ok?” messages, even though I was in a completely different country during both occurrences. The U.S. Department has advised Americans not to travel to Europe, and the media covers these attacks for weeks on end.
Something I noticed since the numerous attacks here is that Europeans have a different point of view of the situation from Americans.
When hearing of the bombs and shootings, I’m at first afraid. I think of how that could’ve been me, of what I would’ve done in a situation like that, about the innocent lives taken. Then I talk to my local friends, the ones whose families have dealt with terrorism and war in their own home country, and they all tell me the same thing: we as Americans are completely run by media, and the media often uses fear to keep an audience.
People also use fear as an excuse to do terrible things like build walls, ostracize races, or encourage more violence. This chain effect is exhausting and can sometimes feel never ending.
But something I admire about Europeans I’ve met is their refusal to live in fear no matter what the television shows. They know that letting terrorists or anyone control their life means letting them win.
Europe is also a continent, not a country. I noticed as an American in the past I would often mold the countries together as one. “Terrorists are in Europe, so I better not go there.” Europe is a massive place full of interesting, beautiful, and worthwhile things to learn.
This country has experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world even if I were to be involved in an attack tomorrow. I’ve learned countless lessons since living in France, but my favorite one is having courage to stand up for what is right and not letting fear control my life.
The reality of the situation is: terrorist attacks can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
We assume it will only happen in Europe because it’s believed to be more accessible to terrorists. With Internet and recruiting techniques, America could just as easily be targeted.
Even though these are horrifying thoughts, it’s important to not allow these realities to take control.
In times like these it’s necessary to work together as a team, a family, a school. It’s counterproductive to fight terror with more terror.
For more information on how to help counter terrorism visit http://www.un.org/victimsofterrorism/en
Hailey Krueger is junior Communication major studying abroad in France.