Saturday, November 14, 2015

To our corners.

It wasn't that long ago that tragedy brought people together. As a people, we were never as strong as when responding to crisis. It was in our collective grief that we set aside our differences, bonded over our shared loss, and put the "united" back in the United States.

Not anymore.

Now, when there's a school shooting or a natural disaster or—in the case of Friday's atrocities in Paris—a terrorist attack, people run to their corners, ready to duke it out. Blame must be placed. Sides must be chosen. Moral high ground must be claimed. Others' positions must be attacked while our own are defended.

Some responded to the Paris attacks by berating our president for his lack of a response. (I guess the statements he made earlier in the day weren't sufficient.) Others questioned the lack of U.S. military strikes against ISIS. (Just disregard the strikes that have already occurred and complain that we, the public, don't know about top secret operations currently underway, I guess.) Others were quick to condemn ALL Muslims, and many were ready to turn against all refugees (even though they're running from the same evil we are). The most asinine comment I saw in an evening filled with ignorance was the suggestion that President Obama, who's "obviously" a Muslim (please!), WANTS terrorists to attack the U.S. so he can establish martial law and not have to leave office. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!

So I read all that pandering dribble and immediately felt reassured that my "side" is the better. At least my liberal causes weren't exploiting this tragedy for their own gain, right? Then I checked a few of my left-leaning Facebook pages. While none of them came close to accusing anyone of treason, several did capitalize on the Paris attacks to blame the Bush administration for its role in creating ISIS.

Time and place, people. Time and place. (Not that accusing Obama of conspiracy to take over the United States government will ever have a time and place, but still.)

Then there were those who were angry that Paris was getting more attention than Beirut or Garissa University or any of the other places that have suffered similar attacks that also yielded obscene numbers of dead and injured. I can't argue with that. It's true that an attack on a well-known, often-visited Western city (that just happens to be filled with white people) attracts more media coverage. It's also true that the Kenyan students' lives were every bit as valued as those lost Friday. Yes, people need to know about those under-covered tragedies. But is it really necessary to begrudge people's grief?

This New York Times piece sums up much of my frustration: The Exploitation of Paris. Yes, I'm indignant, but mostly I'm just sad. We should be sharing our grief instead of clamoring over each other to claim the moral high ground. We boast that we will stand strong to fight the forces of evil, but how can we if we let these tragedies drive us apart? 

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