By Andrew Russell
For Northwest Asian Weekly
I understand why so many people I know are upset about what happened [Nov.13]–Paris is a place many of us have been to, and the people who died were doing things that we’ve all done before (eat in restaurants, go to concerts). It’s relatively easy to relate to the panic felt by the victims in Paris – the video of people fleeing the Bataclan concert hall (and some literally hanging from windows several stories up in an attempt to escape) was particularly chilling to me.
Not many of us have been to Beirut, though (where dozens died in a pair of bombings just a few days ago) or Kunduz (where dozens died when U.S. airstrikes hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital a few weeks back) or Gaza (where thousands of Palestinians have died during Israeli military operations in the past few years) or Baghdad (where hundreds of thousands have died as the result of decades of war, sanctions, and occupation) or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (where several million have died over the past few decades due to war). Who we choose to mourn and honor says a lot, and I really don’t remember many folks talking about any of these events (or changing their profile pictures on Facebook).
If you do nothing else in response to these attacks, please at least take the time to study some history, politics, and current events. This is not about some sort of ancient enmity between Islam and the West or Christianity or whatever – there are specific causes of events, and they’re not all that hard to learn about. France, like the U.K. and the U.S.A., has a colonial history that has repercussions to this day and also currently undertakes policies that, whether you support them or not, need to be understood to put the events in proper context.
Killing civilians (whether deliberately, recklessly, or accidentally) in the furtherance of political goals is wrong. But the next time you come across a brief news item detailing some small-scale massacre in some faraway place (whether it’s about people killed leaving a mosque by a car bomb in Baghdad or a wedding party in Afghanistan being annihilated by a U.S. drone strike), please try to remember a small sliver of the horror and outrage we all felt about the Paris attacks – otherwise, all you’re doing is just falling victim to a world view that would have us all believe that only certain attacks on civilians are wrong and that only certain lives matter. (end)