I really want to be human again. I’m sick of being defined by narrow categories that neglect the complexity of both my views and my responses. I am not my perceived affiliation – I am a human.

Somewhere along the way, it would seem that political polemics hijacked the reality of what it means to be human. I say this because it is frightfully easy to find yourself confined by the imaginary boundaries of the political spectrum; as if certain responses and compulsions are not acceptable and have no outlet unless allowed by your particular brand of politic. So we must be very careful not pre-judge a person’s heart and intentions merely by their perceived affiliation. However, neat and tidy categories make it easier to classify this ridiculously complex species of ours, but are woefully inadequate.

I am discovering, that it is completely possible to live within the paradox of having one’s heart shattered by the suffering of “the other” and yet be drawn reluctantly into war against them. I hate paradox, but I don’t believe I can exist without it. That doesn’t mean that this is easy, in fact I find the very fabric of my humanity is being torn, and I feel an emotional, mental, and even physical anguish in the face of the realities we have experienced and been aware of these past weeks.

So, I am seeking to define my response to these emotions and have come to the following:

To be compassionate does not mean we must be self-hating or even apologetic for our existence or self-defense. To bow to the warped pathological abuse of a collective sociopathy is not compassion or justice, it is merely enabling horrific, violently, abusive behavior. Justice is loving and caring for those who suffer, whether by their own hand, or for the sins of others. Justice means that I protect my own family and once secure, I can assist “the other.” Justice does not ignore self-destructive behavior or excuse it; justice calls a spade a spade.

However, to be compassionate is to respond to the needs, no matter their cause, and hopefully address the root issues behind the suffering. Here is a picture that helps guide my thoughts: compassion is providing medical care for the man who drunkenly shoots himself in the foot. Justice is to forcefully take away his whiskey and gun, and not to apologize for either his actions or yours.

Compassion and justice are not values owned by either left or right wing persuasions. Neither are they the domain of religion, as we find just and compassionate individuals both within and outside of these systems.

Compassion and justice are the characteristics of humans whose hearts are kind and heads are clear and are not swayed by the endless drivel that is media – they do the right thing, because it is the right thing.

I don’t entirely know what my outward response will look like yet, but I find myself strangely awakened by the suffering a mere 40 kilometers away, and the staggering horrors a couple hundred kilometers away brought on by the rapid and violent advance of the Islamic State.

When the smoke clears and when the rockets and sirens cease to terrify my children, I want to do something; no idea what, but I must. I’m going to continue to embrace my complex humanity, allowing my heart to continue to be shattered and yet be so grateful for and proud of those who served so bravely and faithfully to protect us.

Here’s to living in the paradox, caught between compassion and justice.