One of the benefits of living in this ‘connected’ age is that we can all share our opinions and stories with more people (through social media) than ever before. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris this has allowed for both in seemingly unprecedented fashion.
Wonderful stories of hope have emerged. Stories of people banding together in peace. Stories, too, of those who are afraid or worried about what lies ahead. Opinions have been varied too; from those who willingly open their arms to refugees to those who fear such openness will lead to more violence and destruction.
Memes are popping up comparing the world refugee crises from everything to the landing of Pilgrims in America, to Jews fleeing the Holocaust, and while we may not all agree on whether or not refugees should be allowed here or there I for one believe there is power in being able to communicate our thoughts and feelings. It may not change another’s mind or opinion, still having open and honest discourse on the merits and pitfalls of ideas is far better than suppressing those ideas. There are many places across the globe where expressing your ideas is not allowed. We should all be thankful that we have the opportunity to do so.
What prompted this post, however, is the vitriolic expressions, or perhaps better said, those who express their opinions or ideas as the only idea with merit. In some instances, opinions and ideas are expressed with hatred and anger, with accusatory and inflammatory intent.
The one I could least understand was the notion that anyone who ‘stood with Paris’ did so without concern for the rest of the world that has, and in some cases continues, suffered terrorism. While I understand, to some extent, the notion of these posts, I must respectfully disagree with the premise.
That premise being that one should not change your Facebook photo to include the flag of France for instance, because you did not change your image when x,y, or z atrocity happened to another country.
In and of itself, that premise seems to make sense…. at first.
Upon reflection, however, there are challenges with this notion. The first being that if you did not change your Facebook image when an atrocity happens in another country it means you don’t care about that atrocity.
The fact is that whether we like it or not, the information that governs our lives in the world we now live in is driven by media, both social and main stream. That information, news, is often driven by forces beyond our control, meaning that what is given ‘importance’, or goes viral, or is simply reported honestly or dishonestly, is usually not something we have control over. This doesn’t make it right or wrong, it simply is. As such, when x,y, or z country suffers a terrorist attack or natural disaster and does not get massive coverage is that our fault? Is it somehow a reflection of whether or now we care? Regardless, the fact remains that coverage, information, about a given event is limited, minimal, and often unsubstantiated.
If we hear about it at all, it is in passing, with little to no actual detail. And yet this premise would ask that we choose a side and immediately change our Facebook photo or shout from the rooftops our outrage and disgust.
The second challenge to this premise can perhaps better be explained by hearing news of a neighbor child or perhaps peer of our own children at school suffering from an incurable disease. Perhaps we hear that little Johnny down the street has Leukemia. We call his parents offering sympathy and support. We deliver meals to the hospital to help sustain the grieving family. We give to the fundraising efforts at church and school. We do what we can because we care.
But what about the other children who are also dying? We hear about them occasionally on tv or social media. A trip to any local hospital will undoubtedly uncover hosts of illness-ridden children and their suffering families on any manner of disease from Lupus to Cancer to Cerebral Palsy and the list goes on.
Is our indifference to these children, families, and disease mean we don’t care?
Of course not.
And so it is that I challenge those who deride humanity’s attempt to offer support and comfort to Paris during this tragedy. For those who simply wanted to bring attention to the suffering of other communities, countries, and people I say bravo. Yes, it is important that we recognize that people are suffering across the globe. For those, however, who would suggest that it is improper or inconsiderate to support the people of France (and the other 19 nations of those who suffered loss during this attack) simply because of all the other suffering I must protest.
Any act of kindness, of support, of empathy is a good thing. Why on earth would you want to suppress it. As human beings could we do more? Absolutely. Let us, however, start where we can. Let us fan the flames of support and kindness wherever it may spark and encourage the people of the world to ban together against all hate, all crimes against humanity, all terrorism across the globe.
There is no purpose in deriding those who simply want to show they care. It is possible for someone to care for the people of France and still care for others across the globe. One post I saw attempted to assert that the only reason people were coming to the aid of Parisians was because this atrocity was committed against ‘white’ people or a country that didn’t have color. Apparently they did not bother to look at the list of people who were killed or injured in the attacks nor did they have an understanding of Europe, and Paris specifically, as a bastion of refugees from many parts of the world. America is not the only ‘melting pot’ country in the world.
Let us support one another, not in lieu of supporting others, but in addition to. This never was, nor can ever be, and all or nothing proposition. Let our motto as human beings be to do what you can, where ever you can, however you can. Perhaps, instead of trying to be all things to all people, if we as individuals do all that we can for the people we can reach, ultimately we will end up being our namesake: human kind.