In the Face of Tragedy

This blog’s primary focus is not on political events or international news, but there are some things that I would feel remiss in not acknowledging. Late last week, something awful happened. Acts of terror were carried out that ended hundreds of lives and disturbed countries around the world. I was a ten year old in Brooklyn when 9/11 happened, and I still remember the fear, sadness, and anger that comes from witnessing violence against a city I care deeply about. My heart is with Paris and with those who have loved ones in the region.

I also remember, in the months and years after 9/11, a pervasive fear of people who did not look like the stereotypical American, a fear of people of Middle Eastern descent (or people who simply appeared Middle Eastern), and a desire to single out entire ethnic groups for the violence perpetrated by one extremist organization. I remember being angry, not just at the terrorists who sent the planes into the Twin Towers, but also at the Americans who believed that violence and discrimination were the best ways to protect our city and our country.

I am worried that such reactionary discrimination is happening again. After witnessing violence, we often feel a desire to respond with unfiltered anger and hatred. I believe we must resist that inclination. The intent of terrorism is to spread fear, to create chaos and confusion, so that we paint the world in black and white and retaliate blindly in ways that will provide extremist organizations with justification for their actions. We must rise above the methods that were used against us. Because hatred does not rid the world of violence, it only begets further violence. The more we succumb to ignorance and fear, the less likely we are to remember that humanity transcends national and ethnic boundaries.

What we (from the American perspective) think of as “developed Western countries” are not alone in their experiences of terrorism. A set of suicide bombings occurred in Beirut the day before the Paris attack, under a very similar set of circumstances. Innocent civilians, people simply shopping in a market or having coffee on the sidewalk, lost their lives there too, yet this tragedy was not as widely covered by the global community as the Paris attacks. As an American, entrenched in American culture, I sometimes forget how much our country’s media (even “liberal” media) focuses on “Western” countries. It is easy to live in my little bubble, to ignore the fact that non­-American and non-European nations also suffer from terrorist attacks, that they are also hurting. This ignorance is another way of growing hatred. If we forget that persons of a different national / ethnic / religious background also experience tragedy, and also grieve, and also feel as if their lives have been completely disrupted when such violence occurs, then we can justify blind retaliation. We can close borders and wage war because it is “us” against “them,” and we are the only ones who have been wronged. In truth, every person on this earth suffers in the wake of terrorism, no matter where s/he hails from. We are all linked.

So I mourn not only for the lives lost in Paris, but also for the lives lost in Beirut, New York, Syria, Garissa, and countless other cities and towns that have been or continue to be victims of senseless violence. I stand with all of you. And I hope that in the face of tragedy, all of us who have been affected can still band together in love. I hope we can continue to maintain open minds and hearts towards one another. I hope we can remember that our borders do not determine the extent of our humanity.

My love to all of you. May those we have lost rest in peace.

— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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