On Terrorism, Gay Marriage, and the American “Island Mentality.”

Terrorism

It’s not often that I “write angry”, but there’s no other standpoint that I can address this one from.

Yesterday, a young man headed to the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, a gun hidden in a beach umbrella he carried. Minutes later, he’d ended the lives of 38 people and injured over 30 more before losing his own life to police fire. The Islamic State proudly claimed responsibility for this tragedy soon after.

I am heartbroken. I am livid.

I spent three months of my childhood in Sousse. At twelve, I rode my bike back and forth to the market with my family, explored town, and made friends there. My brothers and I made frequent trips to the beach together, though near Christmas it became too cold for swimming. Still, it was a great place for running races across the sand, building little houses for our plastic knights and fairies out of driftwood and pebbles, and conducting mock battles with sticks for swords near the waves. It seems ironic now. Little did I know then the tragedy that awaited the serene, beautiful beach we innocently played on.

Terrorism
The view from our apartment in Sousse.

The shooting brings it home to me, the terrorism and horror that Northern Africa has been facing at the hands of ISIS. I like to think I’m fairly in tune with issues around the world, that I do my best to be empathetic to others. It’s not as if ISIS just made headlines yesterday. Everyone has heard of the horrors they’re dishing out. But there’s something about watching it play out on my turf that makes it intensely personal.

Playing on the beach.
Playing on the beach.

 I have memories of that place, of the people I befriended in that place.

The “bread lady” two floors down, who used to sell us the most delicious baguettes every few days. The old man on the beach who sat down with me one afternoon and, despite the fact that neither of us spoke the other’s language, showed me how to make kites out of string, tape, straws, and plastic bags. The guy on the corner who sold us endless amounts of roasted chicken when we’d walk home from the local market, and the sweet young lady at the bakery who looked after a mouthwatering array of pastries and Tunisian candies and always seemed vaguely sad.

For them, terrorism isn’t a mildly disturbing event, a sobering interruption to the evening show. For them, there is a constant threat hanging over their heads and disrupting their lives. For them, a quiet afternoon at the beach is impossible. They live in constant danger, the likes of which we will probably never know. I have no way of contacting them. There’s no way to know if they’re ok. Being as young as I was at the time, I don’t know that I ever even got their names. These things aren’t important when you’re playing and making kites out of plastic bags.

At the market in Sousse, Tunisia
At the market in Sousse, Tunisia

The indifference of my friends and community to the situation is intensely disturbing to me. Put frankly, almost no one in the West cares. Not to the extent that they ought to.

If it’s not happening on our soil, it doesn’t affect us, right?

If this had happened in a U.S. school, shopping center, or theater, there would be outrage for months. There would be letters of consolation and funding pouring out to the victims and their families. There would be presidential speeches, communities coming together in support, perceivable action taken.

Instead, it’s shared a couple of times on Facebook, the posters tsking about it for a day and then forgetting it ever happened. “Darn those terrorists, at it again. Oh well, at least it’s not happening to us yet.” It’s not our people, so it’s not important. And meanwhile, we’re arguing about what to call Caitlyn Jenner, keeping up with the Kardashians, and only as of today allowing people to marry whomever they love regardless of gender.

What the hell is wrong with the Western community?! How can we be so short-sighted, so selfish, and so arrogant? Why do we fight and quibble about keeping basic rights from particular members of our society when there are lives at stake in other parts of the world and deeper economic, political, and lifestyle issues in our own?! While we argue over what the Bible says about gay marriage and voice our displeasure at the rights that have or haven’t been granted, people are being murdered.

Someone on Facebook this evening compared today’s SCOTUS decision to 9/11, saying that to allow marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman is to go against our Constitution, and that today marks the worst day for America since the tragedy of 9/11.

I won’t even go into the illogical stupidity of that statement. I’d say it speaks for itself. Right on the heels of that, another post claimed that from here it’ll be a slippery slope to pedophiles claiming their right to children’s bodies. Seriously? It’s ridiculous. Why can’t we move on already?

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I don’t understand.

How is it that some of us are STILL begrudging lovers the commitment of marriage, even after recognizing the legality of it? More than that, how is it that we are so focused on being RIGHT constantly that we can’t use common sense, see past our pride, and realize the bigger issues taking place in our world right now? How is it that so many Americans are so blinded by either arrogance, religion, tradition, ego, or all of the above that they can’t show love and kindness to others? And why have we become such a nation of bystanders and blind followers?

I suppose what I’m attempting to say is that we in the “Western World” are so focused on being politically correct and upholding our own personal views as the “right” ones, that a: it took us until today to let homosexuals marry (and there are STILL many rights issues out there that have yet to be addressed the way they should be), b: half the country is going to continue to fight about that before inevitably picking another topic to shred, and c: we’re so obsessed with our own egos, traditions, and religions, that we seem to have lost all empathy for others.

It’s nearly midnight here. I am tired, disgusted, and deeply grieved by what’s going on in our world. I cannot believe the horrors that are taking place overseas, the realization that almost everyone I know seems to hardly notice them or care, and the fact that it took us in America until today to legalize marriage for all. My one consolation tonight is that, at least in this one issue, love won, and that multiple friends and family members I love deeply can now marry like the rest of us.

Don’t let us stop here.

We need to spread love and understanding beyond the limitations of our own society, and start understanding that we are a global community. What affects the people of other countries affects us as well.

I am sick to my stomach about this, and fairly exhausted as well. Goodnight.

11 Comment

  1. Most excellent wisdom and observations here. You show me that there can be hope in the future generations.

  2. pastor Scott says: Reply

    Hannah… (1) VERY aware of ISIS and its ongoing terror and equally horrified. (2)… due respect but your assessment of the so-called “blinded by Religion” is naive and simplistic. Christians (not religion, but followers of Christ) who are americans as well see what happened this week as the nation thumbing its nose to God and saying “We are now god”. they have trashed against Gods’ word (which is abundantly clear on the issue of homosexuality). It is not that we don’t want happiness for someone, nor are we afraid of homosexuality (so called homophobes). It is that we love Jesus AND we love our country. we are grieved that the nation we love, the nation that was created by christians fleeing persecution in Europe for the right to worship Jesus (and that is exactly what the puritans were seeking) is now turning its back on God. we are the ONLY nation in all history founded on the premise of being a christian nation. It is grievious to those of us who are followers of Jesus to see the nation we love turn away. There was a time in your life that you knew that Hannah. It also grieves me that you have gone another direction as well.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. There are some inconsistencies here I’d like to address. I know it’s a long reply, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible.

      A: You don’t want unhappiness for someone, but you’ll use your own beliefs to insist/argue that they not be granted equal rights? When did God put you in a place to judge others? It seems to me that, whether you wish it or not, forcing your views of marriage on others will not only inevitably cause unhappiness for some, but is not your place to do.

      B. You know what else God’s word is abundantly clear on? Gluttony. False worship. Selfish ambition. All things America as a nation tends to idolize. You can’t pick and choose.

      C. Our nation was founded because the puritans hungered for freedom and wanted to create a place where freedom and (later) democracy reigned supreme. Not just freedom for the puritans. The Constitution everyone so loves citing from only directly mentions religion once, and then in such a manner as to suggest a desire to keep religion separated from the state.
      “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
      While undoubtedly all of the Framers were Christian (or deist), they seem to have made it clear on more than one occasion that the separation of church and state was important to them. And if that’s not enough to convince you that Christians do NOT legally have preference over other religions (or lack of religion) and lifestyles, the First Amendment was created not long after. The separation of church and state is abundantly clear. We as a nation may claim to be Christian, but we as a state are not.

      D: If you were going to argue about the nation thumbing it’s nose to God, you should have done so long, long ago. America may have begun as a puritan nation, but that changed irreversibly during the Industrial Revolution. Since then, we have been a melting pot of cultures, races, and religions; something I love about this country. To continue to insist that America is solely a Christian nation is naive and outdated. It reads like a child with his hands over his ears and his eyes squeezed shut, shouting, “Not listening! Not listening! America is only for Christians! Not listening!” Furthermore, to insist that Christianity and it’s values take priority over other belief systems or lifestyles in our diverse country is bigoted. Playing the “I was here first” card is ridiculous. We will never again be the single-faceted two-dimensional nation we once were, and I believe that’s something to embrace.

      E: “It is grievious to those of us who are followers of Jesus to see the nation we love turn away. There was a time in your life that you knew that Hannah. It also grieves me that you have gone another direction as well.”

      I resent that. Please don’t speak for me. I personally was never grieved to see diversity and freedom of religion in my country, even if it meant not everyone agreed with me or shared the same beliefs. I’ve always loved and embraced cultural diversity, and found it interesting. Also, even during the period where I was strongly Christian, I never felt the desire to force my beliefs on others. Nor was I grieved when I saw them happy, respected, and seeking their own version of the truth. It didn’t matter if it was my version or not. I AM grieved to see people living under oppression that we, Christians, are responsible for. That grieves me deeply. The nation who ran from oppression has, in turn, become the oppressor.

      Finally, I would not say I’ve gone another direction. It’s not God I’ve turned from, it’s Christianity. Over the past few years I’ve become more and more disgusted and repulsed by the actions and agendas of my fellow Christians, all of which are apparently backed by God. Christianity has ceased to be a religion and has become a culture I’ve been able to witness from many different angles. I’ve come to the realization that I have no desire to be a part of that culture. That’s all.

      1. Rose says: Reply

        Extremely well said, Hannah! Such eloquence and I’m proud to see you make your points politely as they resonate much more loudly and help you get your point across better. I comend you.

      2. Hannah, you are my hero! I wish I had more words to say, but they would pale in comparison.

      3. Raf says: Reply

        Hey,
        I’m was a TCK kid, now an adult, for many years I’ve struggled with my own opinions. I’m now embarking on yet another journey, this time with my own children. We’re in Poland at the moment actually. What you’ve written as a response here, directly reflects my own opinions on this matter and quite honestly, I find it rather difficult to agree 100% with people’s opinions. Yet here, you managed to encompass my exact thoughts on the matter. Thanks! Great piece.

        1. Thank you! I appreciate the feedback. Enjoy your travels!

  3. Somehow your blog post showed up on Facebook and I followed it here:) Just want to say that I agree with you and I, too, never cease to be flabbergasted at the narrow-mindedness of many Americans. Part of it, of course, is because we have been brainwashed lies (American “exceptionalism”) and these lies just get repeated over and over again, like the Pastor’s oft quoted statement that we are a Christian nation.

    As for ISIS, well, we have our own home-grown, in-house mass killings on a regular basis (Sandy Hook; Columbine; Aurora, Colorada; Charleston) that I think we’re a bit immune to the violence elsewhere. Unless there’s a break in the news and the media wants to once again fuel anti-Muslim hatred.

    Despite all this, there was much good, a lot of joy and a heart-warming unity this past week as folks of all stripes and colors came out of the closet to support Marriage Equality. Many true Christians are calling out the self-righteous haters. Many straight people are supporting equal rights for all.

    America’s progress, compared to other industrialized Wester nations, is depressing — and yet, this past week alone, it was quite encouraging, too.

    Anyway, most of all, I just wanted you to know that are a lot of concerned, compassionate, progressive-minded folks in the US and you aren’t alone.

    1. Thank you Trishia. Your comment was very uplifting and encouraging. Sometimes the number of atrocities occurring in our world coupled with people coming out of the woodwork this week to bash and go over the reasons they’re against marriage equality ONE MORE TIME gets me down. And you know how it is. When you’re down it’s difficult to look past it and see the good things and the loving people that are out there. Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. :)

  4. pubnknit says: Reply

    Hi Hannah,

    For the most part I’ve stopped commenting on the posts I read, regardless of how much I love them, but I wanted to make an exception here and take the time to tell you that I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’m sorry about the tragedy in a town you know so well. One of the beautiful things about travel is the compassion you feel for places and people who used to be alien to you. But that can easily lead to heartbreak.
    Anyway, yes, I’m proud that the US is taking steps in the right direction, even if it did take us much longer than it should have.
    Thank you for writing this.

  5. Hannah,

    I think part of the gap between how you see world events and how many Americans see them has its root in your own upbringing. By living all over the world (literally!) and getting to know others, you have a better perspective on the similarities and differences of peoples than the rest of us have. You’ve seen first-hand what many others have not. I’m not sure that Americans are necessarily “America-centric” deliberately; it’s just that they don’t know what they don’t know. Fortunately, you don’t keep your experiences to yourself — you share them through this blog. Perhaps unwittingly, you are an educator! :)

    I wish your brothers would start writing again, too.

    — Russ

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