Paris is not Beirut. Don't judge mourners

Why are they supposed to hide their true feelings because its politically incorrect? Why can’t they be authentic?

 |  4-minute read |   19-11-2015
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I have watched the non-stop coverage on the Paris attacks. I have read the articles on the tragic events on November 13. I even wrote articles on the terrorist’s attacks. 

The outpouring of support and grief on the global stage was phenomenal, just like it was for the September 11 events in the United States.

For me personally, it was heartbreaking because I am one of those very lucky people who actually lived in Paris for a few months. I have walked the streets where all these horrific events occurred and when the images are splashed across the television screens, I am gripped with grief, sorrow, sadness and nostalgia.

But I am also a journalist who is pragmatic and realistic. Bad things happen. They happen everywhere and every day to people who do not deserve them. We live in violent, dangerous times. I am accustomed to tragedies.

That’s why I have never changed any social media page to reflect the current tragedy in any country ever. I know better than anyone else that life is a 24-hour news cycle. The next disaster is a few headlines away.

I don’t judge my friends on my Facebook page who upgraded their profile pictures with the French tricolor. I noticed the social[sc1] media had activated Safety Check, a feature that they usually reserved for natural disasters. It crossed my mind that it had not been done for Beirut the previous day.

In the beginning, the lavishly generously expressed emotional tributes on social media were as bright as the lights of the monuments that lit up around the world in the colors of the French flag.

But within a few hours, the unpleasant, cutting comments began to fly all over social media. The sadness and shock gave way to the ugly accusations of racism and the insinuations of indifference.

The judgmental, finger pointing and tongue lashing was directed at people who they were calling out for not expressing emotion for the victims of the suicide bombings in Beirut. Or with the victims of tragedies in Kenya, Nairobi or even Mumbai.

“Where were you then?” they self-righteously and angrily asked.

“Why are some people’s lives of less value than others?”

I have a message for those people. Paris is not the same as Beirut. It is different and it should be covered that way.

Paris is a symbol of freedom, liberty and democracy. It’s been listed as the top tourist destination in the world with 33 million tourists annually and half of them are foreign born.

Beirut has been a war zone for decades with civil conflicts between the government, the rebels and the Islamic State. Bloodshed is expected and is inevitable.

The idea of Paris is unparalleled by any city in the world. It has a rich history of culture, style, passion, architectural audacity and imaginative creativity in art. Paris stands tall as a powerful symbol of revolution, democracy, civilization and enlightenment. It embodies the values of a free spirited country.

The news of a suicide bomber killing 40 people in Beirut is not a surprise. But to have six coordinated attacks which killed 129 people in a city that it nowhere near any conflict is mind boggling. There were no warnings in Paris but in Beirut a perpetual sense of foreboding looms. The next attack is expected. Everyone is used to it. And in this case, you can’t even blame your favourite punching bag, the media. All these stories were reported, on the front page mostly and journalists as always, probably risked their lives to cover them. But it just didn’t resonate with the people.

They are not being racist or uncaring. They just have an affinity to Paris. The city is familiar to them. They have had magical vacations and life defining moments there. They go to propose marriages, enjoy honeymoons and celebrate anniversaries. They have friends, families and colleagues there. It’s natural that they would feel a connection to a place which is familiar and safe.

Beirut is alien, dark and evil in their minds. It’s not that they don’t think about the people who suffer and die senselessly. They just don’t have that same feeling for that part of the world. Why are they been judged for expressing their sorrow for a city that is known for love, light, fashion, food, fun, art, fashion and culture?

Why are they supposed to hide their true feelings because its politically incorrect? Why can’t they be authentic?

Emotions are not like laws. They cannot be imposed upon people. You can’t force people to care. You can’t shame them and you can’t make them feel guilty.

And what more, you shouldn’t.

Writer

Sonia Chopra Sonia Chopra @soniachopra28

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Ohio. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Newsday, The Orlando Sentinel, Salon.com, Rediff,com, India Abroad, Indian Express, Firstpost.com, and The Quint.

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