I’m a news junkie. It’s a side-effect of studying journalism. I get news notifications of every bad thing that happens in the world. I’m also a millennial. The first thing I do after reading the news is check social media to see how my friends are reacting.
After I heard about the Paris Attacks, my timelines and feeds were flooded with images of the Eiffel Tower. People’s profile pictures were overlaid with the red, white and blue of the French flag, and people were mourning with those in Paris. Everyone knew. Everyone cared. Everyone showed support. Tout le monde est devenu parisien.
After the attack in Brussels, I saw the same outpouring of support. As I scrolled through Instagram, every post I saw was a graphic of the Belgian flag with “Je suis Bruxelles” written somewhere on it. People overlaid their profile pictures in red, yellow and black. I noticed this again after the Orlando shooting. A constant flood of pride flags and #WeAreOrlando covered my feeds.
Seeing this outpour of love, support and unity warmed my heart and gave me hope in humanity. There’s so much hate but there’s also a lot of love.
Now, I want to recap the most recent attacks that have shaken the world:
July 1, 2016 – Five men attacked a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh and held the patrons hostage. In the end, 21 people were killed.
July 3, 2016 – Two bombs went off in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The death toll stands at 200, 25 of those killed were children.
July 4, 2016 – Three separate attacks occurred in Saudi Arabia. One in Medina by the Prophet’s Mosque, two in Qatif by a Shia mosque and one in Jeddah by the U.S. Consulate.
Do you know what I saw on my newsfeeds? Vacation pictures and Fourth of July celebrations. I saw one post about the attack in Dhaka; it was praising the bravery and selflessness of a student from Emory University who stayed behind and died with his friends.
It hit me that we only care about these attacks as long as the lives lost were Western. We see these other countries as less “civilized,” and therefore, we see the lives of their citizens as less important. Tragedy struck in these cities, and no one seems to care.
We are sending the message that only Western lives matter. We do this by not only ignoring the aforementioned tragedies but by ignoring the cries for help from those who flee from their homes in the hopes of a more peaceful life. It’s a message we cannot afford to send.
Terrorist groups gain recruits in a number of ways. They use fear to tap into the hate and loss in people. They empower those who have lost all hope by putting a weapon in their hands and telling them that they can make things “right” again. They key into raw emotions and bring out the worst in people.
We’re helping them. We do nothing to combat the notion that we don’t care about lives that aren’t Western. We prove their point for them when we know tragedy strikes and act like nothing happened.
Is our culture’s Islamophobia the problem? Probably. But we’re ignoring another factor. We see ourselves as better and more civilized. We see ourselves as more human. It’s a point of view that goes back to the Age of Enlightenment and imperialism. We dehumanize those who we deem as lesser, and we blame them for their tragedy.
I’m 21 years old. I’m fresh out of college, and I’m not going to pretend to know what the answer is. But I do know that the best way to combat hate is with love and compassion. I know we’re capable of it because I saw it with Paris, Brussels, and Orlando. But if the lives lost aren’t Western, we fail miserably.
Call me naïve. I’d just like to see more compassion in the world.