Unless you have been unplugged for the last two days (which I totally recommend doing every now and then), you know the tragedies that befell an unsuspecting Paris last night. 129 people were mercilessly murdered. They were unarmed, they were not threats to anyone. It was, as French President Hollande put it, “an act of war.”
And I do not disagree.
Everywhere across the internet, we see cries out against the so-called “selective grief” not only in this article, but in comments all over the place. I understand why some would see it as such, but I beg to differ. I don’t believe the fact that the whole world grieves for France is politically selective at heart, and I’ll explain why.
It’s simple, really.
Before last night, whenever I thought of Paris, I thought of dreamers and hope and romance and magic. (Not magic in the literal sense, but as in ‘magic of the moment.’) My desktop background is a painting of a street scene from Lyon, France that reminds me of what Paris looks like at night.
I’m not the only one; around the world Paris is known as the City of Light, “La Ville-Lumière.” Why? Avenues of sparkling street lights and the lit-up Eiffel Tower aside, the name was given to the city as a nod to its role in the Age of Enlightenment. Writers and artists around the world love Paris for its muse-like effects on the creative mind. If you look up the word enlightenment in a thesaurus, you will find words like insight, civilization, wisdom, literacy, broad-mindedness, sophistication, and culture. Words that come to mind in relation to enlightenment are words such as light, life, liberty, illumination. Not only that, but ask anyone what words they think of when you say “light” and you’ll hear more than a few say “hope.” And that is how I have seen Paris.
So why is the global outcry significantly quieter for places that endlessly endure senseless killings like those in the Middle East? I believe it has to do with the (sad but true) fact that the world has become desensitized to those incidents. It seems they have been going on forever and they are no longer a shock. Their own people are fleeing the violence and other countries are taking them in. I’m not saying that it’s right, or that those lives lost mean even the slightest less than the lives lost in Paris last night; I’m simply pointing out one explanation for the “selective grief.” Paris, the world-renowned City of Light, was a shock to us all.
In America, we know this war all too well. We have been living it since September 11, 2001. We all deal with what happened that day in different ways. Some deal with it through anger, some through tears. While some people seem hateful in the aftermath of this most recent tragedy, remember they too have been affected by it. So when someone says something like, “Why do you care so much about Paris? What about Palestine, Syria, Baghdad, Beruit?” and etc, remember that they too are hurting in some way. They too are human, reacting to an inhumane act of terror. Of course all of those lives matter. Of course there is tragedy everywhere. Sadly, some tragedies are more shocking than others.
We all share the same planet, though we have different beliefs, different lifestyles, live in different situations. With all the differences among us, we have at least this one thing in common: we are creatures of hope. When our hope, our light, is threatened, it creates an outcry. Paris, “La Ville-Lumière,” has represented hope in its own way since the Age of Enlightenment. We know there are so many dangerous places in the world – places no one would ever think of traveling to for a family vacation. We also need to know that there are “safe” places, and until last night, Paris was one of them.