I debated with myself for a long time whether I should write this, partly because I try not to make social commentaries online in fear of ending up on the wrong side of internet famous, and partly because I just don’t know what I would say. But after hours of contemplation, the message I wanted to send materialized, and with it, how I wanted to craft it. If you’re going to read it, read the whole thing, because I say some pretty stupid things in the middle.
I first heard about the Paris events yesterday afternoon, so I popped open BBC news on my phone and promptly realized that it was so recent that even BBC had no idea what had happened yet, nor was there reports on ISIS or any Islamic involvement, only that 100 people were killed in a mass shooting and bombing. My first reaction? “Wow, again? Although…it’s weird that it’s in France, don’t they have better gun control over there?” Honestly, that was it. Why? Because it seems that every week somebody somewhere decides to shoot up a bunch of innocent people, and frankly I’m getting pretty desensitized about it because sitting on the toilet at school reading BBC without a kill count would be a rare day. I’m not saying that’s an okay reaction to have, I’m just telling you what I thought.
Anyway, then I went about my day as usual. I was on a writing roll, so time went by pretty quickly, then I had to go to a hockey game, but before I left the house I checked Facebook, and saw the status updates rolling in. “Praying for Paris.” Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to run out, I think I might have said something stupid on Facebook. Because my first reaction to this, as it always is, was “this is fucking stupid.” First of all, how many people that were praying for Paris actually uttered a prayer? What would you even say? Yes, your thoughts are with Paris, but why does Facebook need to know? Second of all, how many people actually had French friends ON Facebook? I’d understand if it was Canada or America, and we wanted to show support for our friends and family, but in this case, for the majority of people I knew on Facebook, literally nobody affected is going to see any of this, so what the hell are we doing? (Ironic enough, I happen to have French friends. If you’re reading this, hope everything’s well).
Like I said, that was my immediate thought, and judging by some backlash on social media, I wasn’t the only person thinking that way, though I salute your bravery and stupidity if you had actually said/typed that out loud. I was mildly annoyed, but went to an otherwise enjoyable hockey game with some friends in the department, where surprisingly, none of us mentioned anything of Paris until the ride home. However, I did have a brief moment to chat to my better half on the instant messages (yay technology), and in between my transcription of an unusually exciting minor league hockey game, I put in a rare complaint about how stupid I thought the whole hashtag activism was. I was then promptly enlightened as I was told to imagine what it would be like if this had happen in my own peaceful city. I still maintain that the status updates does absolutely nothing for Paris, for the people that died, and arguably little for the living people of the city, but it got me thinking.
Then I came home, got on Facebook. Bad idea: the world was going to shits.
Paris gets shot up by Islamic extremists, so the world shows support via #prayforparis. Then, somebody got angry that there had been a bombing earlier this week, in Lebanon, with almost no news coverage. So the #prayforbeirut guys got angry at the #prayforparis guys for being hypocritical and selective activists. I honestly didn’t even know about the Lebanese bombing because I guess I didn’t go on BBC on Thursday, probably worrying shitless (no toilet trips, get it?) about my midterm. In any case, that somehow invoked the social justice warrior within me to condemn the hypocrisy of the Western world, EVEN THOUGH I had no fucking clue that it had even happened before this whole Paris chaos. Okay. Then somebody else got angry that nobody’s been paying attention to the daily tragedies going on in the Middle East, nobody fucking prayed for Turkey when THEY got bombed in the middle of a goddamn peace rally, and certainly nobody prayed for Syria, because, well, then you’d have to update your status to “prayforsyria” pretty much every single day for the past 3 years. So now we have #prayforparis, #prayforbeirut, #prayforsyria, and the best one, #prayforeveryone & #prayfortheworld. Then things got kind of weird, people started posting things like thousands of innocent people get shot in America by the cops, so #prayforblacks.
And of course, there was what I had feared the most, Islamphobia. I have Muslim friends, and this is not like a white-folks-saying “I have black friends” kind of thing. No, I have Muslim friends who are - by no means is this derogatory - regular fucking people. So it doesn’t only hurt my brain how illogical it is to group all Muslims with 8 idiots who may or may not even be actually Muslim, it pains me to think that this is yet another round of gas top-up for those that are looking for an excuse to be bigoted. Seriously, if nobody says Christians are terrorists by quoting the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church, why is it okay to equate some random bumfuck terrorists with good people living all around you? Fine, white America wants to hate on Muslims, go ahead, it’s not the worst thing. The worst is when people are rallying behind this for political action against Syrian refugees AND heavier military involvement in Syria. Canada recently pulled out of operations against ISIS, so naturally people took the opportunity here to say, well, we done goofed. My question is, how can any of us have the balls to make a political statement like that when there clearly is no solid evidence for either being a good solution? I’m not saying I know what the best thing to do is, but I’m pretty confident that none of us do.
Why are we all so angry?
All of this was last night, at which point I thought, maybe I should unplug. But I couldn’t go to sleep because my microwave broke and I was oven-baking some food since I had the munchies after one too many 2 dollar beer at the game. So I just sat there. I really wanted to write something, but I didn’t know what it was, so I didn’t, because I knew it was going to be yet another commentary on how some group of you were stupid and unreasonable for saying one thing but not the other, and I didn’t really have a message to send to anyone, other than maybe “hey you should all listen to me because I figured it out”, all the while feeling confused as ever about why there is so much random outrage.
Sitting around doing nothing has a weird effect of making you think, and it was thanks to my traditional oven taking forever to do a job that my microwave would have done in 2 minutes, that I realized I was really sad, and scared, and angry, and frustrated. I was all of those things that were not directed at anyone, but just was. I didn’t think I was that sad about Paris when I first read about it, but it turns out, I was. I’ve been to Paris, it’s beautiful on a Friday night. It’s beautiful on any night, really. It has an atmosphere of carefreeness and spontaneous magic that was almost true to what the movies made it look like. All the lights turn on and people enjoy themselves and have a good time sitting by the river, outside cafes, wherever. It’s incredibly saddening to imagine the chaos on an otherwise peaceful and joyous weekend night. It’s even more painful and scary to think about what it would’ve been like if it was in my city, if it was my friends and family that I had to fear the lives for. Then I was frustrated, about why this even happened, feeling ever more helpless that there really is no clear solution to this, to the Syrian tragedy, to people dying namelessly, to why, apparently, a father of two kids had to sacrifice himself and jump the second bomber in Beirut to save the lives of everyone going to market. What the hell am I, or are any of us, supposed to do? Meanwhile, I’m really confused as to what the government is supposed to do, and why everyone thinks they know what the best thing is. If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve mistaken my Facebook feed for a Parliament gathering because of all the discussions going on.
Then I realized this: people on my Facebook and Twitter feed are JUST people. My friends, colleagues, people from school I’ve never ever talked to, random people I’ve met - regular ass people. And if I was feeling all these ways about what had happened, and what’s been happening, then maybe they are too? Maybe #prayingforparis is not suppose to do anything for Paris, but for us? Maybe we’re all scared, alone, and frustrated, and #prayingforparis and beirut and syria and blacks and everyone is not a suggestion for action, but a reach- out to be consoled, feel united, and be reassured that somebody out there will care about us in the same way and make sure that we’re safe from these senseless tragedies. Maybe people don’t realize that they’re feeling this way, maybe they’re not even feeling this way, but it certainly made me see everything in a different light. Instead of thinking that every hashtag was stupid, I should’ve realized that behind every hashtag was another individual that was rocked by Paris, Beirut, and Syria. But for some reason, we don’t want to express that. We want to express WHY we should be sad about Paris versus Lebanon, WHY it’s not okay that one thing is getting more media coverage than the other, WHY the Western world should care about the Middle East just as much as it cares about France. But that’s not why we post these statuses. We all know that status updates don’t save lives, neither does putting our profile photo behind a French flag. I hope I’m not senselessly optimistic when I say that I really do believe that we, as humans, just want to feel less sad and less powerless. So I’m really, really sorry I thought your status update was stupid (in my head). Maybe I was the only person, if so, then I’m sorry for being a Judgemental Judy - I’m slow to empathize.
And then I realized what my message was: let’s stop judging each other for which hashtag and status updates we choose. Nobody likes a social justice warrior no matter what you’re fighting for. Instead, just stop and think for a moment, process our own emotions, and console everyone about their own plights. No one is wrong in feeling sad or angry about Paris or Beirut or anywhere for that matter. It’s a fucked up thing that happened. But don’t offer up solutions, because nobody - not me, not you, not Obama - knows what the hell they’re talking about.
Instead, go hug someone, or call or email someone, and tell them how you really feel. I’m sorry this happened, and that these things continue to happen all around the world.