Where Lives Matter More

Where Lives Matter More

Adrienne BoettingerMonday,16 November 2015

It feels really weird to be perturbed by people turning their social media profiles into sympathetic French flags. Then again, it also felt icky to see other people ticked at the outpouring of solidarity with the French because those Francophiles didn’t give a damn about the attacks one day earlier in Beirut.

Not sure why it needs to be a contest of whose lives matter more but only a very naïve person would be surprised that the global outpouring of sympathy went to Paris and not Beirut. Why does the world care more about the terrorist attacks in Paris than it does of the attacks in Beirut (or the attacks in Baghdad or the downing of the Russian plane or other recent tragedies)?

A variety of reasons have been given — like that more people died in Paris than in Beirut. But if that’s the case, then surely the insane amount of 200,000+ people killed (1 in 4 of which were children) since the Syrian conflict began would weigh heavier on Western minds and consciences. Except we know that’s not true as every ‘Murican GOP candidate worth his salt, plus the new government in Poland and God knows who else are coldly withdrawing the lukewarm welcome mats for the Syrians able to flee certain death and escape to the promise of a better and safer life westward. The higher the numbers of Syrian casualties, along with the numbers of civilians killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi, Nigeria, Yemen, and elsewhere, the number we become.

Another reason offered as to why the world responded so differently with Paris than Beirut is that America and the rest of the Western world have a stronger relationship with France. France’s support was critical to our own revolution a few hundred years ago and it’s safe to say more Americans and Westerners travel to France than they do Lebanon. Maybe that’s why the attack in Paris seemed to matter more?

Or is it just that we really don’t care about the Middle East unless it’s Israel? That we’ve fallen under the spell of the fearmongers who see rage and hatred in every mosque and behind every hijab? Human emotions range from suspicious to hostile when it comes to people we see as different. Our blinders go up and we can’t see that the people in Beirut were the same as those in Paris — out celebrating with friends, working to support their families, running an errand or just taking a break from the daily grind. Neither group suspected their lives, or the lives of those they loved, would be cut brutally and bloodily short by vicious murderers they had never met before. Neither group was more or less deserving of the right to live their lives.

But as weird as it felt to see the world held in thrall by the devastating attacks in Paris it felt equally weird to see much of the world go back to not giving a crap about much beyond each country’s specific borders. Politicians on every side will use what happened in Paris for his or her own benefit and the world will grow even less tolerant and more apathetic to the plight of tens of thousands of refugees.

I desperately want to be wrong about this, so prove me wrong. Contact your elected official and tell him or her of your concern with ongoing conflicts, instability and bloodshed. Consider donating to one of the amazing organizations risking their lives to help refugees make it to safety. Tell your favorite candidate that “refugee” and “Muslim” are not dirty words.

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Image Credit: Flickr

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