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.
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.
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.
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?
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.