by Z.S. Roe
It’s difficult to articulate an appropriate response to last night’s terror attacks in Paris, France. Many, of course, have adopted the moniker, “Pray for Paris,” and have adorned their Facebook posts, their tweets, and their Instagram pics with various iterations of that sentiment.
I don’t put much stock in prayer, but I’m similarly dissatisfied with those who resort to the weaker, “Paris is in my thoughts.” Certainly, the people of Paris are indeed in my thoughts, but I doubt that’s any consolation to them.
Yet it seems inappropriate to remain quiet.
What I find myself most wanting to respond to, however, is not to the terror attacks in Paris (to which no response seems adequate), but to the “I Told You So” mentality being bandied about by many on the far right. For example, one twitter user wrote:
At least 35 dead in Paris. 100 or so hostages. You did this to yourself Europe. This is what Islam does. Wake up world!
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) November 13, 2015
It’s the last sentence that bothers me the most: “Wake up world!”
Sadly, it seems like this particular catch phrase is being echoed all over social media. Hell, one of my own cousins posted this very thing on his Facebook wall.
But here’s the thing — you only sound like a chump when you say it.
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: Islam. Like all major religions, Islam has a long, complicated, and culturally stratified history. With more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, you can bet on one thing: diversity, as in diversity of thought, conviction, morality, purpose, not to mention diversity in understanding the basic tenants of what it actually means to be a Muslim. In other words, not all Muslims are the same. Duh.
Yes, but, don’t I know how much blood has been shed in the name of Allah (God)? Sure I do. But, generally speaking, all major religions have blood on their hands. They don’t all kill in the same way, but make no mistake about it: belief in God often leads to bloodshed. For instance, many like to point to the Crusades as one example of Christian blood lust, but that example seems a little antiquated. If you’re going to take umbrage with Christians, one need not look so far back in history. The murder of thousands of First Nations children in Canada and the US in Christian residential schools requires us to hop back only a few decades. Then there’s the sordid history of the KKK (who identified as Christian). Hell, there’s even a story from last year of a Christian teen beheading his college roommate for practicing witchcraft.
Obviously, most Christians wouldn’t condone such killing. The same, of course, can be said of most Muslims regarding the Paris attacks.
Moral of the story: when speaking about a rather large group of people, generalizations are always wrong.
Yet the sentiment “Wake up world!” lends itself quite easily to these kinds of generalizations. It invokes the kind of histrionics that we see in fantasy narratives of a lone dissenter who is the only one with the courage to stand up and speak the truth. It makes for a great story – Hollywood would love it. But it’s also a dick thing to say. At the very least, it implies that everyone else has been sticking their heads in the sand, and are unwilling to confront the world as it truly is.
On behalf of “everyone else,” allow me to say this: you’re an asshole for thinking so.
Just because I don’t believe carpet bombing the Middle East (civilian casualties be damned) is an appropriate response, doesn’t mean that I haven’t given the situation serious thought.
What it does mean is that I have a different point of view. I’ve drawn different conclusions. No, you’re not an asshole for coming to different conclusions than mine; you’re an asshole for assuming that a different point of view from your own could only mean I haven’t been paying attention.
I have been.
Sure, my approach (if adopted) could be the wrong one, but yours could be too.
What our collective goal should be, I think, is to try and assess the situation as best we can, and then respond only after careful consideration. The first step is to acknowledge that it is complicated; generalizations have no place is this discussion. The second step is to work together. If I can get past the fact that you’re an asshole, then surely you can get past the fact that I have a different point of view.
Wake up, you say? If you truly think the whole word is asleep, then maybe it’s you who hasn’t been paying attention.
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