My heart sank heavily, as I know many others did, when the news of the Paris and Beirut attacks broke out.
Terrorism has defined my generation and my lifetime. I remember the exact intersection a 10-year-old Dale was at in my mom’s car on the way to school when the news broke over the radio that the World Trade Centre had been attacked because the world changed irreversibly that day.
There have been uncountable acts of terrorism, school shootings and violence in the 15 years since, and in the aftermath of the Paris and Beirut attacks a deeply troubling and disturbing realization set in.
Having seen the news alert on my phone, I knew what was going to happen next not because I can see the future, but due to the fact something so terrible has been turned into a predictable routine, a meme.
I foresaw the backlash against refugees coming to Canada, the Facebook profile pictures that would make people feel like they were supporting France without having to actually do anything in a show of solidarity that effectively ignored the 43 who died a day earlier in Beirut — more on that hypocrisy later.
We have all done this before, and we are going to do it again, and that makes me sick to my stomach. Watching people have the same knee-jerk reactions, the same politicking play out once again, it starts to approach Einstein’s definition of insanity.
No, terrorist acts haven’t become the meme, the routine, you have. The response of the fearful and arguably racist members of the public, now louder than ever via Twitter/Facebook, is not only disheartening and objectively un-Canadian, it plays right into the hands of those committing the horrific acts.
Yes, those cautioning against refugees, you are racist, keeping in mind the Muslim faith is not a race. You are taking the actions of a few and extrapolating that to insinuate refugees from Syria and the Middle East are dangerous. Even floating that notion is at the very least xenophobic. We like to help our neighbors, as long as they share the right faith and skin colour. The world also showed less outpourings of sympathy for the Beirut suicide bombings, and now that the event has been dubbed the “Paris attacks” Beirut will likely become a footnote. A Boko Haram attack occurred this week and got much less attention. I doubt many people on the street would know who Boko Haram are, or that they are responsible for 51 per cent of deaths by terror worldwide. Where is the cry for bombing West Africa?
I was horrified in the following days to find out that the anti-Muslim sentiment was larger and worse than I expected. A Muslim woman getting attacked and robbed while picking up her kids from school and mosques being vandalized, as well as a Sikh temple for some reason — apparently those who discriminate don’t even understand which faith they are supposed to be unjustifiably hating right now.
The fact that the acceptance of refugees is a talking point instead of how we can help, fills me with disgust. These are civilians, people, just like you and I. It’s even worse when you consider that there are currently allegations linking Canadian CF-18s to 27 civilian deaths related to a Jan. 21 airstrike against IS forces. As of yet unproven, at least it points out that on the other side of the world there are bombs dropping from the sky, likely on civilians, at the very least on their homes because of fear-based politics.
People don’t like to think of civilian deaths when they jump behind ordering airstrikes a half a world away, it doesn’t happen all neat and tidy where just the bad guys die like in the movies.
This isn’t a war fought in the traditional sense, this is how war is fought now, using the weapon of public backlash and using the natural human responses of fear and revenge, and what has clearly become embedded xenophobia, as a tool.
The unrest and violence in the Middle East has a decades-long history and is a very complex and difficult situation with no easy answers.
The Islamic State counts on radicalizing people to join their cause, it has been their trademark, and the bigger the divide between people the easier it is to radicalize those on the fringe.
My frustration, anger and sadness were lifted slightly by the words of a man who lost his wife in the Paris attacks and penned an open letter to those who killed her. I found them to be the most powerful words that have been said in recent memory: “You will not have my hatred.”
Nor should they have any of ours. Are we going to proceed with the archaic practices that got us to this point in the world, or is now the time to change, to progress and realize we hold the power, we the majority of good-hearted people, it’s our actions that matter.
Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.