Let Us Not Turn Cold
I had been working on a piece about fat-shaming (short version: don't do that) when the news of a mass-shooting/terrorist attack on a Mosque in New Zealand broke. For a moment, I considered just continuing on with the other piece - surely many writers more eloquent and knowledgeable than I would present something compassionate and thought-provoking. And, while it is true that many good pieces have since been written, it's also true that a disappointing amount of the dialogue surrounding it has been less than sympathetic and sometimes just downright cruel.
This should go without saying, but you do not have to be a Muslim to be saddened by this. You don't need to be a fan of Islam or any organized religion to be horrified. In fact, you can hate Islam, hate religion, be the most unabashed anti-theist on the planet, and still feel despair and compassion over this. And that is precisely what you should feel. 50 people, several of whom were children, were mercilessly gunned down in the one place they felt most at peace. There is nothing amusing, nothing justified, nothing reasonable about that, and if you feel there is, there is something deeply wrong with you.
"But, Nigeria!", many are crying. Approximately 120 Christians have been slaughtered in Nigeria in the last 3 weeks, and far too many have been quick to compare the media's treatment of these two horrific events. Obviously, the media loves Muslims and hates Christians. Of course, even the slightest bit of scrutiny proves this wildly inaccurate, yet many persist. If you have been tempted to engage in this line of thinking, I would ask you to stop and ponder when you last read any news about Nigeria in mainstream media. Does your chosen news outlet tend to report on Nigeria with any frequency? Does it tend to report on anywhere in Africa often? I'm betting not. Rather than feel personally victimized that the slaughter of Christians is being underreported (NOT unreported, otherwise, you wouldn't know about it at all, would you?), perhaps you should consider that American mainstream media simply doesn't care what's going on in Africa, full stop. Did your local 6 o'clock news report on the 19 killed at Mass in Nigeria last year? Did it report on the Muslims murdered by a Christian militia in Bambari a couple of years back? Has it been keeping up on the religious and ethnic war in Central Africa? I'll wager my modest savings that it did not and has not. Do not give in to the divisive idea that the media is somehow pro-Islam and anti-Christian. Consider instead that the media is largely Eurocentric and tends to only report on that which will get the most people riled up.
Most importantly, please do not make this a competition. Do not play the Oppression Olympics, because I assure you, that is a game in which everyone loses. 50 Muslims murdered in New Zealand is a tragedy. 120 Christians murdered in Nigeria is a tragedy. 49 LGBT people murdered in Florida is a tragedy. 11 Jewish people murdered in Pittsburgh is a tragedy. 9 black people murdered in South Carolina is a tragedy. ALL mass-killings are tragedies. ALL terrorist attacks are tragedies. ALL instances of people being slaughtered simply for being who they are are tragedies.
These events should not drive us even farther apart. That is quite literally their entire purpose, and we are giving in to it. Terrorists, mass-killers, white-supremacists, extremist Muslims and Christians all, ironically, share the same goal. They want us afraid. They want us angry. They want us to hate one another. They need for us to see "the other" as our enemy and to see ourselves as victims. And we are giving them exactly what they want. While I'm neither naive nor idealistic enough to believe all of us can forget our differences and come together as one Kumbaya-singing people, I do still have enough faith left in humanity to believe we can, at the very least, be compassionate about the tragedies of others. That we can acknowledge the pain of others. That we can, if nothing else, give others the space to mourn.
Let us not turn cold at the suffering of others. Please.
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