Friday November 13th, 2015.
What should have been an evening to enjoy the majesty of the city of lights swiftly descended into a surreal nightmare for hundreds of people. Radical terrorists carried out several successive attacks on various places in Paris, killing over a hundred people. And in the aftermath, we struggle to cope with the reality that such an event happened.
Many people have updated their Facebook profile picture to feature an overlay of blue, white, and red, the colors of the French flag, in an effort to show solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks. Some have criticized these people, accusing them of engaging in what is known as “slacktivism”, or appearing socially conscious without having to make an actual effort. Others have called attention to other attacks that happened just days before Paris, expressing their frustration that the attacks on the French city have dominated the headlines. And still others have expressed anger at people who critique anyone who expresses sorrow over Paris, arguing that people can care about multiple tragedies at once.
But this is not what I want to talk about today. The reaction I most want to talk about has to do with the response and attitude toward Muslims and refugees, specifically those from Syria.
As you may have heard, many state governors (mainly Republican ones by the way) have stated their intended refusal to allow Syrian refugees to settle in their respective states. Now, legally there is very little they can actually do to further this agenda, but it is indicative of a trend that I find rather alarming. Instead of showing solidarity with these people, who are fleeing their country because of the terrorists who are making their lives a living hell, many of us seem to want to lump them all into one group.
I saw a comment on Facebook a few days ago that quite literally said (and I regret having to even write this word out) “sandnigger hunting” with a question mark.
There are a lot of conservative, pro-military minded folk who have their hearts set on revenge. They want retribution for all those who suffered and died at the hands of the terrorists who attacked Paris. It’s fine to be angry. It’s a natural reaction to the events that took place on that fateful Friday. The problem comes with the fact that many of these same people have a tendency to lump all Muslims together. They’re the same types of people who want to kick anyone with ties to Islam out of the country. “We can’t let the terrorists win,” they often say.
But see, here’s the thing. By turning against anyone who looks and thinks differently from us, we are giving the terrorists the victory they seek.
Google defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. It’s vague, but that’s because there is no real concrete definition for the word. Many governmental agencies across the world have shied away from defining it for one reason or another, and thus this is what we’re stuck with. But the one thing I can say for sure is that one of the chief aims of terrorism is to spread fear, to destroy confidence and security.
And every time we mutter under our breath and cast a leery eye toward anyone on the street who even looks like they might be Muslim, we only confirm that they are succeeding in that aim. And by pushing them away from us, we may only be pushing them into the arms of those we abhor.
Let’s break down some numbers real quick. According to the Pew Research Center the percentage of Muslims in the United States as of 2014 is only roughly about 0.9 percent, which is slightly less than a hundredth of the population in this country. Not only that, but the percentage of Muslims worldwide who are actually part of the ISIS terror group is roughly around the same number, about one percent or less. In short, not all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, very few Muslims are terrorists. We’re letting the actions of an extreme few dictate our perspective on the whole.
And that’s what really bothers me. Christians aren’t defined by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. Cops aren’t defined by the actions of a trigger-happy, racist few. And yet, whenever a radical Muslim commits a violent atrocity, people are all too willing to slap the label of “terrorist” on the entire group. They stamp their feet and angrily demand that all Muslims be deported out of the country.
Why is this? The reality is blunt, but simple: we don’t have to look them in the eyes while we do it.
Due to the small percentage of Muslims in the country, your chances of running into someone who is one is very slim. Because of that, it becomes all too easy to distance yourself from them, to reduce them to something that isn’t quite human. We don’t have to deal with it, so why should we care? They’re all over there in that other country that we’ve never been to. We’re all too comfortable sitting back and judging this entire group of people because we don’t have to deal with the repercussions of it. Any backlash comes from such a minority group that we can largely just ignore it, using these cases of extremist violence to bolster our xenophobic views.
And it fucking pisses me off. Yeah, I just dropped an f-bomb. Deal with it.
These refugees are people, people with families, children, lives and dreams. They live, think, and breathe just like we do. They desire similar things. And yet, we are content to think of them as less than human, because it makes our worldview seem more righteous. Never mind the fact that the Ku Klux Klan considered itself a Christian group and swore to uphold Christian morality through whatever means necessary. That doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s in the past right? That kind of hatred doesn’t exist anymore right?
If you actually believe that while also calling for the deportation of Muslims, then you are an absolute damn fool and an utter hypocrite.
We talk so much about protecting ourselves, about our security…but what about their security? Where is their right to peace of mind and safety? Oh but that doesn’t matter right? Why bother actually caring about a group of human beings when we can just close ourselves off and pretend their plight doesn’t exist. We can just sit here and debate whether a bunch of coffee cups are offensive or not. Because coffee cups are serious business.
And to think, just last week I made this big deal about how I think empathy is an innate process that all humans have. And now I have to sit here lamenting how, in the aftermath of these vicious attacks, we seem to lack it, or at the very least refuse to acknowledge it. These days, it’s all about us. What about our problems? What about our people? Never mind the fact that despite the problems this country has, we are still far better off than most countries in the world. How about a little humility? How about a little sympathy for our fellow human beings for crying out loud? We are all bound by the same DNA, the same genetic history. We are all of the same species. We all live on the same planet. How about remembering that for a change?
Keep your fellow human beings in your hearts, thoughts, prayers, and so on. Remember that they are simply that: human beings. To forget that simple fact is to allow fear and doubt to consume our lives.
And I can’t believe I’m actually about to quote Star Wars in a time like this, but here we go: “fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”.
It’s far more true than I think we like to admit…
Well that’s all I have for this week. If you or a loved one were directly affected by the events that happened in Paris this Friday, just remember that you are not alone. In a tragedy like this, the best thing we can do is come together and overcome it. We have to forget about the differences in country, culture, religion, and so on because in the end they don’t matter. We are all human, and therefore flawed. Accepting our flaws is the way to bettering ourselves. Denying them will only lead to more violence and hatred. And I feel like the world has enough of that already.
Tune in next Wednesday for another post. Have a great week and stay safe out there, wherever you are.