Today I read an op-ed titled, “America: Your Solidarity with Paris is Embarrassingly Misguided.” The article is in response to the flood of people showing solidarity with the people of France who suffered a terrible attacks late Friday night. The author goes on a rant about how the show of solidarity is hollow because the people standing together with the people of France do not wear the flags of every country affected by terrorism. I would love to quote more of the article, but I find myself hearing (in Kanye’s voice), “Yo America, I’m really happy for your support of Paris, but the entire rest of the world had some of the most horrible terrorist attacks.”
This article is a great example of the problems with liberal voices in the public. This kind of foolish rant minimizes the small efforts made by others to reach out across the boundaries of nations and show that we are all together in our abhorrence of these actions.
On its surface, Ms. Bernish’s editorial has some merit. In the United States we have heard much more about the attacks in Paris than the other attacks that took place in Lebanon on the same day. Instead of posting pictures with the Lebanese flag, we see our feeds filled with images of the French flag. The mistake she makes is one that is all too common with people today…she doesn’t think things through.
She uses the tragedy and the lack of coverage of Lebanon to berate the end users of the news without consideration for the “why” behind the show of solidarity with Paris instead of Lebanon. We don’t all have the luxury of time to sit down and research all of the atrocities that have happened across the world. She mentions that the knowledge of the entire planet is available through the computer screen. While that’s true, we have so much information available that it is unrealistic for everyone to be up to date on every bit of worldwide news. Most people rely on the news agencies to sort through this information and put forward the news that they find most relevant to us. That’s exactly what they do (for the most part). They show us more coverage of Paris because we identify with the people. Because we identify with those people and we are shown a lot of coverage of the attacks, we feel the need to show the people of France that we are here to stand with them. This is a natural response to the situation and denying this reaction and our ability to relate to the people of France as opposed to the people of Lebanon is foolish and short-sighted. Would she rather hear little about the attacks and more about attacks in areas of the world that wouldn’t help us relate so that the entire issue becomes inconsequential? Her entire argument is counter-productive. If she thought about why we relate to these people and show more support for their situation she might not be so quick to belittle the effort.
I will point out the stories of the French people who showed similar compassion and solidarity with the United States after the attacks on September 11, 2001. One American in France recounts, “Businessmen and widows called the embassy offering their beds to Americans stuck at the airport. And at noon on the official day of mourning, pedestrians stopped in their path and cars pulled off the road to observe the three minutes of silence.” Headlines the next morning read, “We are All Americans.” Hundreds of Parisians gathered at Notre Dame to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” French President Jacques Chirac flew to the United States and was quoted as saying, “France… will not stand aside in a fight against a scourge that defies all democracies…Today it is New York that was tragically struck, but tomorrow it may be Paris, Berlin, London.”
It would be great if we were able to show the same solidarity with all people affected by terrorism. It would be even better if we didn’t have to do so. However, this is not realistic. We identify with a people who share a similar perspective. We show our solidarity with those who did the same for us during our darkest days. As a fellow social and political blogger who has thought through the situation and realized that we must reinforce the positive behaviors that we see. If the people respond by coming together to support a people who have suffered, then we should be proud to join in that support. We must be intelligent enough to recognize how our own situation and environment affects our perspective and how we react to each situation. If another group that isn’t in the forefront deserves the same support, then we should work to bring them into the light, but we can’t by dismissing the empathy that people show towards a group with which they more closely identify.
Perhaps Ms. Bernish should have said, as I do now, that I am so happy to see people from all walks of life uniting to support the people of Paris. It’s beautiful to see people of different races, political ideologies, and socioeconomic classes look the same through the filter of the red, white, and blue French flag. Through all of our turmoil and fighting, we can stand together and lift up our brothers and sisters from France who reached out to us when we were suffering and gave us a shoulder to lean on. I extend that support to our friends in France, Lebanon, and Nigeria and would love to see others join me. Either way, I hope that we can keep this feeling of mutual respect and empathy in our hearts as we go forward.
If you want to support both France and Lebanon, download the picture below (click on the image to open the full sized .png image), use your favorite photo editing program (that will support layers and opacity – I use Photoshop, but any that do the trick) to place it over your profile image.