Monday, 11 January 2016

Response to the Paris Attacks

I wrote this the Sunday after the Paris Attacks. Since then the debate seemed to really blow up, which in a way stopped me from publishing it.

Raise your hand if you changed your profile picture to the French flag on Facebook this weekend. I’ll raise mine with you.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The capital of France had been attacked less than 24 hours before. 129 people had lost their lives in the biggest terrorist attack in Europe since the Madrid bombings in 2004. France had shut down its boarders for the first time since World War II.

I watched the events in Paris unfold in my sitting room, switching between Sky News and Euronews while constantly refreshing my twitter feed.

I was a part of these events that were happening 487.72 miles away. I witnessed the confusion, the anger and fear through my social media accounts and what I saw affected me. As it did the rest of our nation.

Before Francois Hollande ever made his speech, Obama came onto our television screens and condemned the Paris attacks.

‘This is not an attack just on Paris,’ he said, ‘it’s an attack not just on the people of France but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.’

This was big, I thought. Was this war?

When Facebook asked me the following day to change my profile picture to the French tricolour, I didn’t think twice. This was a great idea.

Like the Empire State building that was lit up in the French colours the night before and the Convention Centre in Dublin, I too could join in the dialogue.

 Through my social media accounts I could stand in solidarity with the French people who suffered such an injustice that night. With the rest of my Facebook friends I could condemn the terrorist’s actions.

Raise your hand if you are starting to regret your decision. I’ll raise mine the highest.

The day before the Paris attacks took place, IS carried out a bomb strike in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 43 people. They were innocent civilians like those in the Bataclan Theatre. In Baghdad, 19 died during a funeral when a suicide bomber detonated himself early on Friday. Again innocent people like those killed in the Petit Cambodge restaurant.

Our response to the Paris attacks has illuminated the divide within our world that seems to always emerge when disaster strikes the West.

Friday night’s events brought back memories of 9/11, the London bombings of 7th July 2005 and the Boston bombings to me. These are moments in my past where time stood still.

But what about all of the other disasters that happen around the world, that we hear nothing or very little about? Why don’t these gain as much media attention and why aren’t they imprinted in my mind like New York’s 9/11 and the Paris attacks of last Friday?

Some will argue that we gave more attention to Paris on Friday than Beruit because Paris because it’s part of the European Union.

Others will say news is local, and this is why events in Paris received more attention from the West than events elsewhere.

I don’t buy it.

America cared very much when Paris was attacked Friday evening. Obama made a statement from Washington, which lies 3,828 miles away from the French Capital.

Beirut is 2,423 miles from Dublin.

The terrorist attacks in Paris affected us more than the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad because it threatened the West’s stability.  

We are the 20% of the world who live in luxury, have access to education, food in our fridges and wardrobes bursting with clothes.

The distance between Europe to Lebannon, is much larger than 2,423 miles. It is centuries of oppression and exploitation that truly lies between our two continents.

Friday night highlighted this distance and reminded us that our part of the world could easily topple
Subconsciously I contributed to this thinking on Saturday evening when I clicked the ‘try it’ button on my Facebook page to see how the flag would look over my Facebook picture.

Decades of stereotyping and misinformation had been ingrained so deeply in our psyche that we are ignorant to what lies outside of our secure bubble that is the West.

Without any great thought I put the lives of 129 Western People in front of the hundreds and thousands of innocent people who have been killed since the Syrian war began four years ago.

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