People died. It happened. And more often than not, death wasn’t right or fair. I wasn’t going to twist myself into knots about it. But if I told Persephone how I felt, she’d attribute my lack of grief as divine callousness.
But here’s the thing. Humans were modeled after us. How else could they watch the news—a montage of war, death, and human suffering—over coffee then go about their day like nothing was wrong? People needed a certain level of callousness to get by without drowning in the horror story of life.
I’ve been pretty quiet on the Paris front. At first it was ignorance. I was at YALLFEST when the attacks occurred and in an effort to be more present in the moment, I wasn’t checking my phone or logging into social media much over the weekend.
But then I checked back into the real world and felt horrified at the violence I found there, but almost before I had a chance to process that, came the guilt. Social Justice Warriors united as one to condemn the mainstream media for their grief over Paris when so many OTHER places had suffered without an ounce of media coverage.
I wanted to react right away. I wanted to sit and write this blog and comment on every post I saw. But I stopped myself because engaging would only detract from the real issue at hand and that’s not respectful to all the Parisians who lost their lives. I also stopped to evaluate my feelings and make sure my knee jerk reaction wasn’t just me being defensive.
And mostly, it was. Because yeah, I feel guilty. There is a massive double standard when it comes to news from Western Countries as opposed to the rest of the world. Yes, it is problematic that trivial stories about celebrity gossip made the front page on days hundreds died in countries most westerners aren’t sure how to pronounce. But telling people when and who they should mourn is not the way to get that message across. Hijacking a tragedy to prove a point is never going to be respectful and it’s not going to change anyone’s minds. Worse, guilt tripping other people is slacktavism at its finest. Instead, DO something. Next time you want to share a Facebook post shaming people for not caring enough about a thing, anything, stop and make a donation to support that cause. I promise there’s a button to share the donation you made with a link to information about the issue you support and a way to take action.
As for the sins of the mainstream media, we live in the information era. Why limit yourself to mainstream media? Seek out news from a variety of sources. The mainstream media reports what they think people want to read. If you want to change that, be the person that doesn’t fit their algorithm and share the stories that you think people need to read. But do it in a way that doesn’t condemn people for what they do and don’t know or how much they do or don’t care. Because as messed up as it is, to some degree we have to cherry pick what we do and don’t care about because if we stopped to acknowledge every tragedy, even on identical scales, we’d never stop. And even for the tragedies we do stop to acknowledge, we’re never going to mourn enough. I had school on September 12th, 2001. I’m willing to bet that 90% of the people here in the states saw the news about Paris, read the story, forwarded the status and then went right back to work, saddened, but not on the level that death demands.
Unless we are personally affected by a tragedy, we cannot care enough. It’s not possible. And while that sounds like a horrible thing, it’s a survival mechanism we have to have in order to keep going. But making people feel guilty for the moment they did (and sorry, no matter how many caveats there were in all those statuses and articles about how we should still mourn Paris but we should mourn equally, doesn’t change the fact that at the core, people were being guilt tripped for caring), that’s not going to make them care more. It’s only going to make them more callous the next time around and the world we live in is callous enough.
My thoughts are with Paris. My thoughts are with the world. Want to make a difference instead of just talking about it? Click here to make a donation to Doctors Without Borders or The Red Cross or any organization you feel is making a positive difference in a place you feel needs it. A dollar goes a lot further than a like.