"I am not afraid."
Many things have been said and written after the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. And I have heard and read a lot if it. On Facebook, on Twitter, on websites, on television and in newspapers. With tears in my eyes, sometimes with rage in my chest. I was angry when some idiots suggested that refugees and terrorists were basically the same. I was scared, when arsehole right wing politicians wanted all borders shut. And I was amazed by all the lovely, positive, heartwarming reactions from people who simply want the world to be a peaceful place for all mankind.
But I was also puzzled about the general outpour of "I am not afraid!" and "We refuse to be scared" comments on the internet. I don't know if everyone out there is so much more brave than I am, but to be honest: I am afraid. As fuck!
Almost five years ago, I stood on the exact spot a suicide bomber blew himself up, just minutes before he pressed the button. In the middle of high street in Stockholm, on a snowy, crisp Saturday evening, with hundreds of Christmas shoppers all around. If my feet hadn't been so fucking cold, I would have continued shopping. I would have been in very close proximity to the exploding pipe bomb strapped to his chest.
For weeks and months afterwards I was scared to go into places with a lot of people. I didn't feel safe in crowded clubs, in shopping centers or at the railway station. I was scared out of my mind that a bomb would explode somewhere, that something might suddenly detonate and I would be in the middle of a chaotic scene with blood and smoke and panic and dead people on the ground.
And - call me a coward - but I think this is a pretty normal reaction. If you know that there are sharks in the water, you don't go swimming with an open leg wound. You'll keep a lookout and maybe just splash around in the shallow bits close to the coast. It's not about bravery, it's about common sense! And, of course we are scared now! Because there are maniacs out there who think they will get an endless supply of fuckable virgins in paradise, if they just blow themselves into bits and take as many people as possible with them.
The thing is: fear is a good thing. It keeps you from doing stupid stuff. It keeps you safe and alive. It's a good thing to be a little scared because this means you probably won't be reckless. I agree with the lovely people on the internet who say that we will not, can not, shall not back down in the face of terror. That we should face it standing strong and holding up the things we believe in - freedom, tolerance, empathy and love. Absolutely, let's please all do that! But let's also stop saying that we aren't afraid. Being brave doesn't mean "not being afraid". It means that you do something, even though you are!