Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pray for Paris

I am working on several blog posts including the one from my recent trip to Dublin, but I feel that it is necessary to take some time to talk about the terrorist attacks last night in Paris. I was out with friends when one of them checked her phone and saw the news updates. At that moment it was hard to comprehend the magnitude of what was happening it was also very difficult knowing that I have friends in and around Paris with no way to contact them. I did what I always like to do in these situations, ignore it until I can sit down and read about it and process the information in a logical way. I got home at 5am and sat in my room, stunned at what I saw. I quickly responded to the various messages from family members, because it is very like me to travel without announcing to the world where I'm going until I'm there. At one point in the semester I actually was planning on going to France this weekend but it didn't work out. I quickly scanned Facebook, checking up on everyone I know in France, Paris or not. I read a few news updates and felt sick to my stomach, both at the terrifying events and at how people seemed to be having normal conversations about normal things as this tragedy was playing out.

 After a couple hours of sleep and some food and retail therapy I find myself again reading about these events with two main feelings. The first is frustration. This attack is terrifying, but so are all the other ISIS attacks, so are all the Boko Haram attacks, so are North Korea's labor camps, so is the refugee crisis, so are sweatshops. There are so many terrible abuses in the world that we seem to overlook, even with how connected we are. I realize that it's impossible to be on top of everything all the time and honestly that would be exhausting, but it's frustrating to see some events more "supported" than others. Regardless, the outpouring and concern is amazing.

 The other feeling is terror. I have said over and over that I feel safer here than I do at home. I walk home alone at night all the time, not afraid of being shot or stabbed. The most I have to put up with is occasional cat-calling and the worst I have to worry about is someone taking my purse, not my life. Reading the statements from ISIS is horrifying. I don't want to read them but ignoring the graveness of this issue is not an option:

 According to Buzzfeed, a recording was released by ISIS: “We want to tell France and all of the countries who are the same as France, they are the target and goal. The smell of death will never leave their noses because they died for the campaign. They hated our Prophet Muhammad. We are happy about what we did to the hostages. They hurt the land with their airplanes. These bombings are the first step. It’s a warning for other countries who have the same mindset of France.” and in a written statement said that France would “remain on the top of the list of targets” and “This attack is the first of the storm and a warning to those who wish to learn". 

 *Note: no, Islam does not condone killing/terrorism

 It is both terrifying and incomprehensible to be that humans can be like this. What kind of creatures are we? We are blessed with the beautiful and complex gifts of knowledge and language and the ability to make forward thinking decisions but we also are the only creatures who have wars and organized killings and attacks like this? WHY? How is it possible for us to be so cruel? How is it that we use our abilities for such atrocities? I can't understand. I can look at it from an evolutionary perspective, from various sociological perspectives and I've got nothing. What have we done? 

Luckily, there is a silver lining in every cloud. One of my favorite quotes is from Mr. Rogers:"My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world." One of these goose-bumps inducing responses (in a good way) is #PorteOuverte. The French used the hashtag on social media to let stranded people in their area know that they could come seek shelter at their house by sending them their address. Taxis also took people places for free, as all public transportation was suspended. The good during these events gives me faith in humanity. So what does all of this mean for me? Well the thought of traveling is terrifying right now, but so is living a life in fear. We must be aware and we must be careful, but we cannot stop living or they have already won.

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