On Solidarity

paris-300x300 On SolidarityThe world woke up this morning to devastating scenes from Paris. I watched them unfold last night with my heart in my mouth. The reports were garbled, bits and pieces of news coming in from Twitter users and the odd reporter who happened to be on the ground as the attacks took place. Stories were published, corrected, and amended in moments. Chaos reigned.

In between my searches for news updates, I ran across more than my fair share of hatred and vitriol. Twitter is a cesspool at the best of times, but the American right were out in force yesterday. France and America have long been staunch allies, and you’d think France would deserve better even in the midst of one of its darkest hours, but the political classes and the right-wing zealots obviously thought otherwise.

As a disaster is unfolding is not the time to make sweeping generalisations. As a disaster is unfolding is not the time to push your political rhetoric. As a disaster is unfolding is not the time to sit smug in your ivory tower and pontificate about the whys and the wherefores. As a disaster is unfolding is not the time to call for war when you can’t even point out who or where your enemy is.

I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map, they aren’t nations. They are individuals. And look around you – who do you fear? Can you see a face, a uniform, a flag? No, our world is not more transparent now, it’s more opaque. It’s in the shadows...
— M’s speech, Skyfall

The Islamic State has since claimed responsibility for the atrocities committed in Paris, confirming what a lot of people already believed: that Muslims were responsible.

twitter-242x300 On SolidarityExcept they’re not. IS has commandeered Islam the same way extremists in other nations *cough*America*cough* have commandeered Christianity. Its very name, Islamic State, is propaganda designed to reinforce the belief that there is a holy war being waged between Islam and the West. It’s only true if we buy into it, as we do every time our western nations drop bombs in the Middle East, on countries we’re not at war with, in an effort to stamp out a nebulous, borderless enemy.

Today, the western world stands with Paris. Even as the lights of the Eiffel Tower were turned out, monuments across the world were being lit in blue, white, and red tricolour, from World Trade Centre 1 to the Sydney Opera House. People are scrambling to change their profile images on Facebook and Amazon.com’s front page is a French flag. We cannot be there on the ground to help, but we’re showing we care.

Some might take a cynical view — particularly of big businesses engaged in mourning — but grief can be a positive, unifying force. We must not let our sense of grief turn to anger and cloud our judgment. Expressing solidarity with France isn’t a battle-cry or call to arms. Every bomb we drop in retaliation for attacks like the one that happened in Paris last night only turns more people in the Middle East against us. Theirs are nations which have been torn apart by wars. They’ve seen western intervention too often. We’ve toppled governments and seized natural resources and waged holy wars for centuries. Until we take responsibility for that fact, we will continue to draw a line between east and west and there will never be peace. This is not a conflict which can be won by dropping bombs.

What happened in Paris was devastating. But so is what we are doing in the east.

France isn’t the only nation in mourning. On Thursday night, IS carried out a coordinated attack in Beirut, Lebanon; the deadliest bombing the city has seen since the end of the civil war in 1990. At least 41 people were killed outright, and more than 200 wounded, many of them critically. Yesterday was a national day of mourning in Lebanon, a tiny nation which has been devastated by the rise of IS, but whose disasters rarely seem to garner our attention.

Hezbollah are using Lebanon as a base from which to fight IS in neighbouring Syria. By August 2014, Lebanon had already taken in 1.14 million refugees from Syria.This in a nation with a population of 4.47 million. That’s more than a quarter of its population; one refugee for every four people. And countries with populations ten or fifteen times that of Lebanon are squabbling about taking in a few thousand.

Our sense of solidarity shouldn’t have borders, and it shouldn’t end with a tweet or change of profile picture. There are as many people on our side in the east as standing with us in the west, and the very least they deserve is our support.

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One reply

  1. Thank you, Kate.
    Unity, not division.

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