When a friend told me past midnight to check the news about Paris, I had no idea that I would be looking at a map of a city I love, delineating locations undergoing terrorist attacks simultaneously. I zoomed in on that map closer; one of the locations was right to where I had stayed when I was there in 2013, down that same boulevard.
The more I read, the higher the number of fatalities went. It was horrible; it was dehumanizing; it was utterly and irrevocably hopeless: 2015 was ending the way it started – with terrorists attacks occuring in Lebanon and France almost at the same time, in the same context of demented creatures spreading hate and fear and death wherever they went.
I woke up this morning to two broken cities. My friends in Paris who only yesterday were asking what was happening in Beirut were now on the opposite side of the line. Both our capitals were broken and scarred, old news to us perhaps but foreign territory to them.
Today, 128 innocent civilians in Paris are no longer with us. Yesterday, 45 innocent civilians in Beirut were no longer with us. The death tolls keep rising, but we never seem to learn.
Amid the chaos and tragedy of it all, one nagging thought wouldn’t leave my head. It’s the same thought that echoes inside my skull at every single one of these events, which are becoming sadly very recurrent: we don’t really matter.
When my people were blown to pieces on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, the headlines read: explosion in Hezbollah stronghold, as if delineating the political background of a heavily urban area somehow placed the terrorism in context.
When my people died on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, world leaders did not rise in condemnation. There were no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people. There was no global outrage that innocent people whose only fault was being somewhere at the wrong place and time should never have to go that way or that their families should never be broken that way or that someone’s sect or political background should never be a hyphen before feeling horrified at how their corpses burned on cement. Obama did not issue a statement about how their death was a crime against humanity; after all what is humanity but a subjective term delineating the worth of the human being meant by it?
What happened instead was an American senator wannabe proclaiming how happy he was that my people died, that my country’s capital was being shattered, that innocents were losing their lives and that the casualties included people of all kinds of kinds.
When my people died, no country bothered to lit up its landmarks in the colors of their flag. Even Facebook didn’t bother with making sure my people were marked safe, trivial as it may be. So here’s your Facebook safety check: we’ve, as of now, survived all of Beirut’s terrorist attacks.
When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.
And you know what, I’m fine with all of it. Over the past year or so, I’ve come to terms with being one of those whose lives don’t matter. I’ve come to accept it and live with it.
Expect the next few days to exhibit yet another rise of Islamophobia around the world. Expect pieces about how extremism has no religion and about how the members of ISIS are not true Muslims, and they sure are not, because no person with any inkling of morality would do such things. ISIS plans for Islamophobic backlashes so it can use the backlash to point its hellish finger and tell any susceptible mind that listens: look, they hate you.
And few are those who are able to rise above.
Expect the next few days to have Europe try and cope with a growing popular backlash against the refugees flowing into its lands, pointing its fingers at them and accusing them of causing the night of November 13th in Paris. If only Europe knew, though, that the night of November 13 in Paris has been every single night of the life of those refugees for the past two years. But sleepless nights only matter when your country can get the whole world to light up in its flag color.
The more horrifying part of the reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks, however, is that some Arabs and Lebanese were more saddened by what was taking place there than what took place yesterday or the day before in their own backyards. Even among my people, there is a sense that we are not as important, that our lives are not as worthy and that, even as little as it may be, we do not deserve to have our dead collectively mourned and prayed for.
It makes sense, perhaps, in the grand sense of a Lebanese population that’s more likely to visit Paris than Dahyeh to care more about the former than about the latter, but many of the people I know who are utterly devastated by the Parisian mayhem couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what took place at a location 15 minutes away from where they lived, to people they probably encountered one day as they walked down familiar streets.
We can ask for the world to think Beirut is as important as Paris, or for Facebook to add a “safety check” button for us to use daily, or for people to care about us. But the truth of the matter is, we are a people that doesn’t care about itself to begin. We call it habituation, but it’s really not. We call it the new normal, but if this normality then let it go to hell.
In the world that doesn’t care about Arab lives, Arabs lead the front lines.
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Thank you for your thoughts. I for one do care about anyone who has become a victim of extremist violence and am deeply upset by this kind of news. I live in Canada and while we also have our share of people with extreme views, rarely do they translate into actual violent acts and when they do, the majority of us react in support of the victims. I also support any help we can provide to the refugees fleeing this kind of violence but I must admit when I heard about Paris I did feel fearful of even one of these ISIS fighters getting into my country. I suppose that is the goal – to elicit fear in us. But please be assured that this fear will never overcome my sense of compassion for what is happening in Beirut, Syria or anywhere else in the world.
While I have muslim neighbours that I care about, I also have serious reservations about Sharia law and hope that the majority of Muslims understand that this kind of oppressive ideology must be seen for what it is – an excuse to perpetuate the oppression of other people with violence – and evolve beyond this kind of divisive thinking. It’s a big world with room for all of us to live peacefully, but only if we can all agree that each one of us is valuable – both men and women, religious or not, no matter what city and culture we live in.
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I hear about lives lost every day…every time a suicide bomber selfishly decides to tragically affect losses to other families (and 99% of those murdered are innocent Muslims going about their everyday lives) it becomes all too familiar news. But the tragedy of Sudan, Darfur, the still occurring unbelievably everyday kidnappings of women and children by Boco Haram in Nigeria is absolutely heartbreaking, the human trafficking right under our noses here in the States. What I don’t understand is why ISIS continues to get recruitment of idiots when their use of alcohol and raping of the women they kidnap is well-documented, which is further proof that they are common criminals of no religion, smearing the name of Islam. Trust me, the world’s atrocities are well-known and felt by those who care, from as far back as the genocide in Rwanda and the scourge of war in Vietnam. We’re out there, people of action that care.
I read your post with a open mind and a heavy heart for all who have lost their lives. Rest assured there are intelligent humans that see the whole picture. The real question is why does it have to be like this. You might be interested to read my blog, and contribute to a resolution.
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Check, in order to understand the global – and local- situation, and development:
http://www.al-3ahd-al-thaleth.info , http://www.third-testament.info , http://www.martinus.nu , http://www.martinus.dk , http://www.unitopia.eu , http://www.deathisanillusion.com ,www.philosophy.org , http://www.walter-russell.org .
The information there can help to open the eyes … it goes way beyond old creeds, beliefs, ideologies or dogmas. “For humane materialists”.
(Allow me a polished Google translation)
I can understand Elie’s outcry very well. Only his and everyone’s feeling is less “moral”, but rather “psychological”. It is not about racism, but – perhaps unfortunate – humanity.
According to the laws of human perception we always have selective perception. One of the reasons why we select, in addition to previous experience, expectations or the shape of perception laws is the question of how close or familiar is to me what is perceived. And since I’m not, for many reasons, are closer to Beirut than Paris (my last name is also a reason). This means first of all, but no vote, only the ability or willingness to classify information of self-importance after. I know, for example, not whether there is a metro in Beirut. In Paris I often went with it.
I have, for example, lived in Kenya for some time and visited 2013 with a study group 6 weeks prior to the Westgate attack the same building, a full afternoon. It would therefore be able to meet us as well. A young woman of my acquaintance has been killed then when selecting the wedding dress. Say: I am focused very strongly here. About the attack, the German media have reported quite, but (of course) not to the same extent as the nearby Kenyan. I would have liked there more, but understand why this is so. Outraged would me, if it had not been reported. On Wikipedia you can find this even has its own article; not a mere footnote.
Now I ask you, Elie Fares – and all the others who rise up hastily and indignant: Elie, where you showed on Facebook on 24 September 2013, the Kenyan Flag? Are you – are all the others – now all racists because a black life is worth less than an Arab or “white”? No, you’re not. You take only selectively true. What may annoy you if you is even close and affected.
We can do our best, of course, perceive also different, strange, best over the head if we familiarize ourselves (how it’s sayed in the Little Prince). If we look carefully, listen and travel there.
Elie, you know that in Kenya people are dying every week by Islamist attacks and Suicide Bomber? Do you know Dabaab? Do you know that there in the biggest refugee camp in the world, the Kenyan government has lost control over 650,000 refugees and Al Shabab prevails?
If you’re not a racist, then why did you choose your government not long ago invited to support Kenya, which is a Western-Christian country on the front line against terror financially? Our freedom and our values are under threat, and not only defended in the Hindu Kush, but also at the equator.
Your outcry helped me anyway, my eyes too wide. Arab life are no less value. We take it easy only less true. But I realized that the death the Arab-Islamic terrorists of 13/11 was actually worth less than that of the bestial slaughtered hostages. And to my horror, I realized that I am by the death of the terrorists was pleased. Am I now Islamophob, racist? I do not think likely; I suspect that you as (Muslim?) Arab who you strictly reject the acts of violence were allowed pleased. This binds us together again.
And you might comforting; that selective, distorted and narrowed perception, means not disrespect and disregard. Disrespect and disregard are there, unfortunately, but they look different.
Raimund (Pousset), Heidelberg, Germany
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I am Lebanese too, and I understand why this is your perspective. But since when do we measure the value of our lives, or the significance of tragedies in Lebanon, in terms of Western media coverage and rhetoric? Don’t give the West, the White Man, or the Media that kind of power. Don’t ask for them to tell the world how important you are. The Lebanese don’t matter because the media says so; the Lebanese matter because they are human, too. Beirut, Paris, Baghdad, Nigeria, Egypt, Mali; and, earlier this year, Kenya (and Paris and Beirut again) — these are only some of the major crises experienced around the world. But these tragedies occur much more often than CNN has the ability to run 24/7 news coverage for weeks on end. The Western media doesn’t always blow up events situated in the East, because 1) it’s all relative to other world events; and 2) it will always address what is more relevant to the domestic front first — e.g., boko haram is not as high of a national security threat as ISIS, even if it is more lethal, because boko haram is contained in Africa, while ISIS just reached Western Europe. While the media may not collectively mourn those lives lost in the East in as big of a way as those lives lost in the West, the former matter no less. Value yourself, do your part in not perpetuating hate. Don’t wait for the world to tell you who you are or why or when you’re significant. You are important, in your own right. Arab or non-Arab, all lives matter. My heart goes out to all who were affected by these tragedies. I pray for all.
I’m so sorry you feel neglected and hated by the nations. In the end times there will be wars and rumors of wars and the love of many will grow cold.
It’s not about the numbers, or the timing, or the nationalities and ethnicities.
Maybe these pictures help:
I see a small child shot in the crossfire of gang violence. I see a newlywed couple dead en route to their honeymoon in a terrorized plane. I see death in places of peace and love. I see the next battle taking place atop a merry-go-round, a home far away from these places of war, in a nation not at war, not in battle attire, unarmed, yet dying.
Every war is cruel and sad and many lose their lives in them, but the heartbreak over the unsuspecting innocent bystanders, being killed in a peace zone, is worth colored flag memorials.
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I really want to see one of these stupid naive peace lovers come up and give an example of a plan of approach.. because it makes you feel sooo good to change your profile pic with the French flag and cry about it on FB, but what that FUCK are you gonna do about it?? you gonna love muslims until they change their religion? Islam has no fucking place in the heart of Christian Europe… There have been wars in the past.. if that is what you are mad about – start a fucking war now, but Im not living alongside an animal that looks like me, acts like me, but is a fucking rat on the inside… I dont want to fucking see your muslim churches here! I dont want to be fucking tolerant to others! Most people are STUPID, FOOLISH, NAIVE.. WHY WOULD I WANT TO BE TOLERANT? Make a fucking ladder so that educated people can climb it and the rest can rot below the ground (maybe we get some oil of it).. There are too many people in this god damn world and I dont want to be hugging no muslims to stay warm
And hugging a sly Jew is better, my Christian European brother?
(Most likely) Mr some guy. Please leave me out when sending primitive vulgar postings like this. 7 times “fucking” – your hate based on a libido problem is public. Do you expect taken seriouslly by educated members of the human race?
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Great piece and important words!
I do want to add, however, that I find it very odd and unsettling that the same people, who during the Paris massacre, decried that people only care about Paris or some other “western“ city when terrorism strikes, and suddenly expressed support for Beirut, for example, but then never spoke of Lebanon again, don’t let out a peep of sympathy when it happens in someplace like Ankara or Istanbul, as it did today. During that time they were filling up their Facebook news feeds and Twitter pages with posts bashing others for not caring and yet here`s another attack but they`re no where to be found.
I guess it`s just another hypocrisy we all have to live with. But I can`t help but feel p*ssed.
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The Saudi Arabian government is behind the terrorists. As are Jews. The Arabs are killing their own as are Western governments. It is their way of destroying society so the governments can take over for the evil globalists. They are working on the globalization of the world and shoving totalitarian communism down our throats. No one mentions the persecution and torture of unprotected Christians, and of minority Muslims……the West has turned their backs on these groups.
The Arab world is going to have to solve its own problems and decide whether it wants to join the rest of earth in the 21st century. I hate to be so callous, but it’s fact. The West is broke, no more money or desire to help. I like to think we’ve learned our lesson about intervention for the next fifty years after Iraq, which was the cause of lots of this. But I think it would have happened eventually no matter what; a small, extreme fringe minority of the Arab world wants to live in the 12th century and is willing to spill an ocean of innocent blood (whoevers) to do it, while the vast majority just want to live happy lives in peace. Until the majority stamps out the snakes in the grass, this region of the world will never know peace. I don’t believe for a second that these governments couldn’t do it if they were so inclined.
My condolences to ALL casualties and lives affected by this half decade long bloodbath. Let it end soon.
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