It was a long night in Paris, and they’ll have many more. My wife and I stayed up watching the horrible events unfold.

The chaos, confusion and pain were palpable. I imagine this is what it felt like across the Atlantic watching the terrorist attacks of 9/11 unfold in the United States.

I was tired this morning. I’ve also been tired of feeling like we’re permanently trapped between war and peace.

My sons don’t know what happened in France. All they know was that it’s 6 a.m. on a Saturday. Neither the Legos inside nor the piles of leaves outside are going to play with themselves.

As we scrounged for breakfast before setting out this morning, I randomly asked them a question from a heavy heart: “Boys, do the bad guys win in the real world?”

Maybe I hoped for them to give me a “superhero” style answer to lift my spirits or at least demonstrate the childish innocence with regard to the evils we truly face.

“Of course not, dad,” said my eldest. “If you’re angry, you don’t win.”

Leave it to the six-year-old philosopher in Spider-Man pajamas to realize that the battle between good and evil isn’t about a specific attack and response; it’s about who we are and what we’ll become.

We cannot inoculate ourselves against evil. As we’ve seen, those bent on death and destruction are relentless.

Ironically, it was the French people who reminded us in 1886 about who we are as a nation. Her silent call:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

That gift, the Statue of Liberty, stands watch over the site of the worst terrorist attack America has ever seen.

As powerful as our instincts may be to shut down our borders, reject refugees or launch into an empty contest of words about the myriad ways we’re going to kill terrorists, let’s not forget what makes us the shining city upon a hill.

Their victory is destruction; ours is rescue. They seek a world where control is imposed through intimidation and violence; we strive to afford liberty and justice for all. At least that’s who we ought to be.

Evil doesn’t win by toppling our towers or taking lives. It wins when we’re afraid and angry. When we cast a suspicious eye to the huddled masses and shut the doors to our shining city, evil rejoices.

We mustn’t let rage and fear overpower us, change who we are and dictate who we will become. Instead, we should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our French brothers and sisters, stare down the darkness and ensure that liberty prevails. 

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