I’ve already seen posts on social media, criticizing people for using hashtags like #JeSuisParis, and posting images of France. They’re calling it hollow. Hashtag activism.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

The purpose of terrorism is to inspire terror. And it works. That will always happen when people are thrown into a swarm of violence.

But the goal of terrorism is to drive us apart by making us fearful of our neighbors–to make us scared and distrustful of people who aren’t just like us. And that’s something we can fight.

It’s impossible for me to think about 9/11 without also recalling other images from those terrifying days. An atrium at a Volkswagen plant in Germany, blanketed with tens of thousands of prayer candles… The US National Anthem played at England’s changing of the guard… French citizens making a shrine at the US Embassy. At a time when we were attacked, when we were scared, people who couldn’t offer any other help in that moment were able to say that they were there for us.

If a hashtag does nothing more than offer a scared Parisian the comfort of knowing they have friends, then it’s far from worthless.

An Empire State Building lit up with the French colors, isn’t hollow. It’s a way of saying to a friend, that even though we don’t always agree, even though we sometimes fight, and even though I can’t be there with you tonight, I will stand with you and stare into the darkness.

For as long as it takes.


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