Essay: Prayers for the World

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*Note: First appeared on Quail Bell Magazine November 14th, 2015.
​Today, I feel shame. 
 

Like many Americans, I found the breaking news of the heinous attacks on France to be devastating. Like many Americans, I glued myself to the TV. Like many Americans, I had no idea about the other attacks in Beirut, Lebanon or in Baghdad, Iraq.

I’ve seen the footage of the soccer game with the rumble of explosions at the soccer field, the scrambling of people outside of the club, the bodies scattered across the ground. I’ve been on the verge of tears for the French people. There is nothing wrong with this.

What IS wrong, however, is how we pick and choose our grief.

“Once again we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share,” said President Obama in a statement in regards to the Paris attacks. France is our oldest friend, beginning when America was not even the United States. France came to our aid during the Revolutionary War and gave us their love and support during 9/11. So naturally, Americans have paid such close attention to the tragedy in France.

“This is a heartbreaking situation. And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like. We’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves,” continued President Obama.

Obama’s empathy is heartfelt and genuine, that isn’t a question. However, at least 41 people were killed in similar suicide bombings in Beirut and 26 in Baghdad. If what occurred in Paris is truly an act against humanity, then we must acknowledge the suffering and pain other attacks have caused as well. While our media may have covered these attacks, they were not acknowledged to the extent that events in America or our allies are. I myself was not even aware of the other attacks (or the hurricanes in Japan and Mexico) until today. It brings me back to my own shame in not thinking nearly as much about Beirut and Baghdad. Shame in American media for allowing us to ignore their cries for help. To let pressure from Islamophobes prevent us from seeing it.

We cannot let Islamophobia prevent the media from covering attacks in Africa and the Middle East, or to prevent President Obama from extending his empathy to similar situations in the Middle East. We cannot let the media blame the Syrian refugees for attacks that they so desperately wanted to escape.

Compassion is essential for recovery. Humanity shouldn’t be filtered. Our thoughts, prayers, good vibes, and well-wishes should be given to all.

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