I’m still not exactly sure what I want to say.
It’s late in the evening of the 27th of November, 2015. Two weeks ago, on Friday the 13th, a series of terrorist acts rocked Paris, France. These weren’t the first, and won’t be the last, but they are perhaps the biggest so far in that country so far. There are, according to the last set of numbers I saw, 130 people dead, and almost 100 more seriously wounded.
In the aftermath, there was a brief moment of solidarity across the world. People cried, were shocked and stunned, and social media exploded in small expressions of solidarity. There were hash tags, expressions of sympathy, tiny shared pieces of art, change social media icons.
And then the heat and vitriol began. Maybe it even started at the same time, though it’s not what I saw first.
“Clearly, this is a Muslim issue.”
“Clearly, this is a religious issue.”
“Clearly, this is a social disparity issue.”
“Clearly this is a legacy of western imperialism and colonialism.”
“Clearly, the terrorists who did this were homegrown, radicalized youth.”
“Clearly, the terrorists who did this snuck in with refugees.”
“Clearly, no one cares about the attacks Baghdad and Beirut at almost he same time because there were no white people involved.”
“Clearly, we need to step up our efforts, go to war, go to war harder, take back what is ours.”
“Clearly, we have a problem.”
Actually, I think we have many problems, and there are many problems just surrounding this particular set of generalized statements.
The people who want to blame religion in general or Islam in particular, go ahead. You are both right and wrong. There’s more to it, history and politics and personalities, but the people perpetrating and masterminding these acts are quite open with the fact that they are causing this chaos specifically in the name of their religion, or at least their interpretation of it.
To the people blaming everything but the religious motivation so openly stated, you’re misguided. The factors you argue far are a piece of things, a part of the blood-soaked jigsaw puzzle, but dismissing the stated religious intent is just another form of arrogance and dismissiveness. You’re telling the world that the perpetrators can’t possibly know why they did it, not really, but you do.
To the people calling out blindly for more violence or immediate reaction or sanctions, go ahead. But you’re wrong. Giving into fear gives the forces behind the attacks exactly what they want.
To the people who think the rest of us only care about Paris because it’s a European city, but Baghdad, and Beirut, and Nigeria, and Lebanon, and all the rest of the places that have suffered don’t matter because there were no white people involved, I reject that completely. It doesn’t actually deserve to be argued against. The media reports on what it feels will generate the greatest number of eyeballs on their content while working inside the budget each particular outlet has access to. We, as a society, have allowed media dumb down or strip away almost everything that isn’t right in front of our eyes already, and we’ve done that by forcing it to respond to capitalist economics. It’s not just about the story anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time, it’s about the story we can afford to bring you. Be angry at that and do something about it. People want to care.
I joined in the online expression of solidarity for Paris. I tweeted, I watched the news using the internet to get as close to local sources as I could, and I read articles and blogs. For a couple of days, I changed my icons and avatars to have a Parisian or French tone. Not because I don’t care about the funeral bombing in Baghdad or the Al Qaeda knockoffs who launched the attack in Beirut, but because I didn’t know about them.
And what does it do if you spend your time and your voice calling me out for not supporting, not understanding something I didn’t know about? Instead of being of being angry at me about it, why not take a moment to let me know instead. Yeah, this truly horrible thing happened, and you absolutely should care about it, but you know what else happened? This thing awful thing over here and at the same time.
On Saturday morning after the Paris attacks, there were a lot of responses I didn’t like, and so many things along these lines I had to ignore, that eventually I had to drop off of social media altogether. I didn’t go back until late on Monday night. The vitriol was still there, but not taking up so much of my news stream, and I’d had a little time to reflect, to pick and choose my responses.
I might be more mentally prepared to use those responses next time, and I have enough understanding of the world to know that there will be a next time, and soon. I think I’ll be better able to handle the knee-jerks, but I don’t think I’ll be any less shocked or upset at the events that trigger them.
In the meantime, be well, everyone. And be unafraid.by