It is currently 3 a.m. on a Sunday night. I have been trying to fall asleep for the past hour and half, but there’s so much running through my mind that sleep became an impossible task. I could grab some melatonin, but instead, I’ve grabbed my laptop and started to write. As I sit here, I find myself having difficulty expressing my thoughts and feelings.
I am torn. I am heartbroken. I am perplexed.
This past weekend, three major cities were attacked by ISIS. The attacks in Paris, however, took the majority of the headlines and the public’s attention.
Love and sorrow were immediately expressed in regards to the attacks in Paris. France is our oldest ally and one of greatest supporters during our previous times of grieving after the attacks of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon.
Also pouring in from the public was outrage. People were baffled that the media could completely ignore the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad that also occurred this past weekend. It was assumed that, to no surprise, the media allowed the attacks in the Middle East to fly under the radar.
Everyday, countries in the Middle East undergo countless attacks. Syria. Palestine. Iraq. Iran. The list goes on and on.
And, I found myself torn between two parts of the world: the west and the east.
Once again, the media had the ability to widen the gap between “the west and the rest.” Once again, a terrorist network was able to strengthen itself while weakening the world’s understanding of each other.
Last semester, I studied abroad in Paris. I arrived two days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. I saw first hand how strong France was in response to such devastation. It was and continues to be a country that will not be defeated by terrorism.
I am also Middle Eastern. Syria, Lebanon, and Armenia run through my veins. These countries make me who I am; they are my identity.
There has never been one day in my life that I haven’t been proud to be Middle Eastern. And, there hasn’t been one day that I don’t think about all the attacks these countries endure regularly.
That is why when the controversy over the Facebook French flag overlay broke out, I was stuck between two feelings. One was of support for France, a country that was my home for a short time. And the second was a feeling of sadness that once again, countries considered to not be “western” were not recognized in the media.
When conversations over why people were mourning over Paris for all the wrong reasons broke out, I was offended. How dare the public denounce the right of a country to mourn for the loss of its people.
In a twisted way, the attacks in Paris gave light to all the other chaos going on in the world.
Answer me this: if the attacks in Paris did not occur, would you have known the other attacks happened? Would you have given them the same attention that you did? Have you been keeping up with the news in the Middle East? The refugee crisis? Anything at all?
The problem is not how people reacted to Paris, but rather how easy it is for humanity to take sides. Media coverage on the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad did indeed exist. So, why didn’t people take notice sooner? I think that for starters, these cities in the Middle East seem so foreign and distant to us. Most Americans do not identify with these countries like we do with France, who is so similar to us. The attacks in Paris make terrorism seem very real to us, while the attacks in the Middle East seem just like the everyday consequences of warfare.
Furthermore, we are selective in the media we perceive. That is a western privilege. We can turn a blind-eye to the things we don’t wish to, but that doesn’t make these things disappear.
Would I have loved for Facebook to have offered a safety feature for those in Beirut, Baghdad, Japan, and Mexico this past weekend? Of course I would have.
Would I have wished that Facebook created overlays of other countries’ flags to show our solidarity? Without a doubt.
Solidarity over the internet has grown in importance over the last few years. But why not take this as a way to be active in the community, in policy making, in conversing in general? Don’t use this as an excuse to make the gap between “us” and “them” even greater than it already is.
I don’t want to feel torn between two causes. In order to fight terrorism, we must all stand as one.
I wish to take this as a lesson learned. We must stand stronger than ever as a unified force against terrorism. No life is worth more than another. No country is less important than another. The value of life itself is priceless and we must protect it to the best of our ability as a world aiming to preserve and protect all of humanity.