Sunday, November 15, 2015
So everything happened yesterday. Earthquakes, floods, bombings, shootings, all over the world. Paris, Beirut, Kenya, Japan, Mexico. Probably some other things I've forgotten about as well, or else didn't hear of -- I was traveling all day, so my connectivity was spotty, and by that I mean perfectly reasonable. I try not to be online 24/7, and it's probably not a good thing for anyone to be online that much.
Facebook, in the wake of what seemed an unreal series of terrorist attacks in France, did the seemingly nice thing of doing check-ins for French users and a French flag overlay for profile pics to offer support. And really, it let a lot of people -- and by people, here, I largely mean American people -- have a way to vent their feelings and try to be supportive in some small way to the aftermath of the French bombings. It was not long, however, before it was pointed out that no such care was given to the bombings at a funeral in Beirut, or to the ongoing issues in Syria, or to the mass killings at the university in Kenya. This is a perfectly valid observation; we have a real problem in the US media with only given attention to US and European concerns, and only then if most of the people involved are white. We don't get all the info because the information isn't made available to us to start with -- and even then, we don't respond to it all in the same way.
What then followed, though, were a number of shaming articles designed to guilt people over showing solidarity to France through these small symbols. I disagree with that, even as I agree with the larger point above, and now I will tell you why.
1) France and the US go way back, and there is still a fairly strong connection between these two countries culturally. Not as strong as with the UK, but it's up there. It's not wrong for people to feel strongly about something that happens in France when it's such an obvious link to 9/11 for Americans. It also doesn't mean they don't feel about other things too. See #2 and #3.
2) The news from yesterday, taken all at once, is overwhelming. Seriously. I still can't process it all. Expecting equal and simultaneous treatment of all the tragedies that happened yesterday is unrealistic; it's not how people's brains work. It's also not particularly helpful. We as humans can only process so much, only mourn so much all at once. Trying to handle more awfulness than we have bandwidth for leads to paralysis and despair. We have enough of that.
3) Getting onto people for showing support in one corner doesn't send the message that people should change their news sources or try to have a broader view. It just makes them feel bad for supporting anyone if they can't support them all. It stomps on an effort to express fellow feeling and kindness rather than redirecting it to a broader audience. People want to help and be nice; they are using the tool that was given to them. Give them different tools if you want a different response. Don't simply bash them for using the one they have.
4) Lift up that which you feel is important. Talk about Kenya. Talk about Daesh (and don't use the old name for them). Talk about Islamic leaders who fight against this message. Talk about Beirut. Talk about France. Talk about the larger global picture. Talk about Syria and refugees and (to get old school) Palestine and Gaza and Somalia and Israel and Iraq and Turkey and Hungary. Encourage a broader knowledge of the world and what's going on. Put up flags of solidarity. Use the black mourning ribbon above. Lead by example.
We've got enough bad to handle right now without turning on each other for trying to do some small good thing that, in the larger scale, is so very small. Can we all find a way to come together rather than tearing each other apart? I hope so. We need that right now so very badly.