I have been very busy the last few days trying to get school work done. That does not mean I am unaware of what has happened in Paris, just that I have not had a moment to compose my thoughts in an educated and informed way in order to post on the horrific event. Today, I am taking a short break because after seeing so many people lashing out at each other on Facebook and twitter over the world standing unified with Paris I feel I need to weigh in. While I could sit back and remain silent, keeping my thoughts to myself, I am choosing to write this in hopes that perhaps people will see this and find some compassion before going off on other people.
We can all admit that what happened in Paris is a tragedy, much like 9/11 here in the US. Let me address those who are all up in arms about so many of us here in the US suddenly changing our Facebook pics to add the French flag to it.
In 2001, when our own country was attacked, the French stood by us. Their people flew USA flags, offered assistance, and said “Today we are all Americans”. In 2001, there were an estimated total of 12 other terrorist attacks across the world, and we did not blink an eye when the world chose to focus on the US instead of any of them. But let’s put this into perspective shall we?
Proportionately, the vast majority of attacks are within Islamic countries. Approximately 80% – 90% of all terrorist attacks are in the Middle East, bombing their own people. So why is it that we only react when a country that is not in the Middle East is attacked so violently? Perhaps because it happens so frequently, and has for so many years, that we are numb to it. It gets a short line in the news, or a few minutes of air time, because it happens so frequently. The news covers that which is not ordinary, that which does not happen often, with much more zeal than those events which happen regularly. That is their job. They do not cover every car accident, only those which cause the most damage or come closest to home. Why? Because that is their job, to discern what events are out of the ordinary and report in full on those.
Is it sad that we have come to think of the brutal annihilation of thousands of Middle Eastern people as ordinary? Yes, it is, but when something happens with such frequency in one part of the world, it is not breaking news. Is it terrible? Yes. Is it unforgivable? Yes. Should it be stopped? Yes. Is it out of the ordinary? Sadly, no it is not. But it in no way screams racism by those who show an outpouring of support and love when it happens to those close to home. It screams of our own numbness to what happens, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis, across the world.
But let me put it another way, to help drive this point home before I move on.
**For those of you who might get upset that I am using this particular example, let me preface this with the fact that I lost a child, and I hardly expected people in Chicago to be upset about my son in a small town in the same state to be upset about my son’s death. **
When a child is lost due to a horrible accident or illness, we react differently based on a number of qualifying factors. We react based on how often it happens in a given area. In larger cities, a car accident which claims the life of a child may be shown for a few moments on the news, if at all. In a small town, it is much rarer, thus the reaction by the news and the people is much stronger. Why? Is it because no one in that small town cares if the little girl in Chicago died or vice versa? No, they care that any child has died. But they do not react with the same as if one of their own, someone close to home, has died. It is because they have a connection with the child in their home town, even if they never met them, and not with the one in Chicago. Add to that the difference in the number of children who die in cities vs the number of children in small towns and you can see that it hits home much harder for those who are closer to us. Even in a big city, if a child dies close to where you live, you react a bit stronger than one who has died in a town on the opposite side of the city (no matter where you live or what color you are). The death of a child is a terrible thing, but it depends on how close you are to the place and people that causes such emotional reactions in people.
So let’s get back to Paris and the horrible tragedy that happened there. France is our closest ally, ever since 1778 and the Franco-American Treaty. The US and France have a kinship which is like any other kinship, we poke fun at each other, but when the chips are down, we stand by each other. Just like brothers and sisters. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was given to us by France. They hold the same freedom and liberty ideals as we here in America do. What could be closer to home than that?
Paris is not a war torn country that has been fighting within itself for decades. Unlike Beirut or Baghdad, they are not constantly having some war brought on by its radicals within its own people against humanity. When we had our civil war, there was not so much outrage from other countries. But when we were attacked, one of the symbols of freedom and liberty, the world cried for us. They did not cry for the other 12 or more terrorist attacks that happened that year, those incidents were barely a blip on the news media’s screens, much like today, because they happen so frequently and they do not happen to those whom we hold close to us.
Just like when my mother or my son died, my family and close friends stood by my side, offering assistance and showed an outpouring of love, while those who did not know my mother or my son had no reaction. There were no newspaper clipping of my son’s death in Chicago, but there was in my home town. The news station in Chicago did not run a live news feed or ask the people of Chicago for help to get us through our trying time, but our local one did.
How we react has more to do with closeness, those we find in our inner circle, and those whom we perhaps look up to, admire or can relate to. It is hard to relate to countries that are at constant war. We ourselves are not at war with each other (despite the bickering among us). We are numbed to the realities of the wars and terrorist acts which happen in the Middle East because they have gone on for so long. It is when someone close to us, in this instance France, gets blindsided by what goes on every day in other parts of the world that we find ourselves in an emotional upheaval. But to blame those who want to show solidarity with a country like France as being racist? Get a grip on reality please; it has nothing to do with race. Is it just as tragic as France? Yes. But we are numb to it after all these years. The only way to change that is to be shaken up and begin to see a little more and do a little more, not to nit-pick others for their emotional reaction.
Besides, until Paris was attacked, there were virtually no feeds about Beirut or Baghdad to be seen on Facebook or other social media unless it hit close to your home. Isn’t that just a bit hypocritical of those of you suddenly so outraged that so many of us have changed our profile pictures?