Turn your back: Stepping stones to a more involved society

“You can turn your back/but it won’t go away” (Billy Talent, 2009)

Why has that song been stuck in my head this past week?

I feel like it has a pretty potent message, but the one line that stood out to me was from the first verse, “If you have to ask/then you don’t have a clue/there’s snow in Arizona while there’s bombing in Beirut.” What could be more pointed; more current? The lyrics talk about how ignoring situations won’t make them go away, and really active knowledge is the first step in learning to help. Also, there was a bombing in Beirut.

Last week, Nov. 12 and 13, was an affront to humanity. Especially on social media?

The attacks on Paris on Friday evening drew the whole world in, and it made people start reading the news and looking for similarities, causes, and like-issues.

They found them. The Nov. 12 double suicide bombing in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, the Nov. 12 massacre at Garissa University in Kenya, the Nov. 13 suicide bombing at a mosque in Baghdad, and lumped in with those were two minor Earthquakes in both Mexico and Japan on Nov. 13.

But to find out more details about those you can read the news. The issue I have with any, maybe all of the issues, is the way they are being treated when put in the perspective, and perceived shadow, of Paris.

Facebook added a new, temporary, feature early Saturday morning that allowed users to change their profile picture to show solidarity with Paris. Quickly, thousands of people changed their pictures to have a French flag superimposed over their faces, and equally as quickly there was outrage.

The discussions I have seen about why it is not right to change the pictures have a good intention that continuously seems to blame others for caring about Paris.

I have seen posts and tweets criticizing people for not changing their pictures to the flags of another country that is suffering like France, because, like I pointed out, we are not lacking those.

Why not change your profile to include the flag from Lebanon, or Iraq, or Kenya?

Now, sure, the obvious answer one might jump to, and one I’ve seen thrown around, is the apathy, or potential racism inherent in the Western world in relation to those other countries. We won’t be changing our pictures, because we do not see those people as “like us”. France is close. We all want to go to Paris at some point, we know its history and we all recognize the Eiffel Tower, but Iraq? Lebanon?

I would like to present the idea that we do not see the news from the Middle East or Africa because we have become used to not needing to. Sure, we all hear about the goings on sometimes; you can probably recall news images of the Arab Spring, you’ll have heard either your super political or super punk friend (sometimes the same person) about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and if you have not heard about a group called ISIS, well you probably should, but they just are not near enough to us to hold as much weight as a Western country. It’s not racism, it’s geography.

I think that with this inclusion of Paris in the global reality of terrorism, we might start to care more. With the horror stories in the weeks to come, the pictures of amputees who were filled with shrapnel, the sad tales of families torn apart while having dinner, or going to a concert, we will start to sense that empathy, on a global scale, grow.

More people are aware of more things now. We have now heard about the bombings in Baghdad and Beirut because of Paris.

Do not shun those who changed their picture on Facebook to the French flag, embrace them. Anyone who changed their picture is someone who cares. If they did not pay attention to world news before, they have the potential to now. It might not be their fault they did not know; they had no need to know. We learn as people, we have the ability to be empathetic, and we have the need to know more once we know a little. There are injustices everywhere. Choosing one does not mean you do not care about the others.

We have before us the opportunity to reintroduce productive discussion about the state of the world, because it has hit closer to home.

Let us keep talking, but remember to keep it positive, keep it civil. Recognize that every one, no matter where they are from, Kenya, Japan, Turkey, France, or Canada, has feelings, we are all people, and even if you turn your back, it just won’t go away.

-Jack Fisher