Sunday, June 12, 2016

These Colors Don't Run

Right after the Paris bombings many of us on social media turned our profile pictures into an Eiffel Tower or French slogan to show our support and solidarity with the French people. Soon afterwards, peoples of differing African nations and Middle Eastern countries cried out. Why not change the colors of your online avatar to those of the Afghani flag? Or the Sudanese flag? These are but a few examples of countries that face national atrocities and horrors on an almost daily basis and these occurrences are but a blip on western news. No one would light up the White House with the colors of the Nigerian flag or cover British Parliament in an Algerian banner. The bottom line is this. Westerners have turned a somewhat blind eye to the terrors of Africa. Be honest with yourself. We all do it. The horrors are sadly just too numerous and the issues that cause these problems can't all be solved with money or Doctors Without Borders. These issues are multi-faceted, some even ancient, political, religious, cultural and on and on and on. Because of this we choose to look in the other direction and to not dwell on such sadness. For good, evil or some weird grey area in between this is the way of the western news system and society itself.

Today my husband asked me if I had read the news stories about the shooting in Orlando or the rapist from Stanford University. I shrugged my shoulders and said,"I saw those headlines but I didn't read the stories". In that moment I realized that I didn't bother to actually read about those awful stories for the same reasons that I choose not to go any further than a headline into any of the awful situations in Africa or the Middle East...because the situations are just too numerous. Without knowing it, my mind has subconsciously placed America in with Africa and Atrocities. Obviously America is still safer and more stable than almost any African nation but I'm not sure anyone would glean that from the news headlines. There are shootings, seemingly, every day in the U.S., rapes, robberies, hate crimes, preposterous political campaigns, corruption, extreme wealth disparity and severe lack of charity. Has it gotten this bad?  So bad that when I read about a shooting in the news I just gloss over it as yet another American shooting? Yet another bombing in Africa? Who can keep up with this?

Perhaps it's time to get out of our comfortable suburban bubbles and talk with those that are different from us. Make a friend who is at a different economic level (up or down) from yourself. Talk to a Muslim. Befriend people of differing ethnicities, gender or sexual preference from yourself. Why? Because it's easy to hate a stranger. It's impossible to hate a friend. Get past the headline, make a friend and maybe the stories will begin to change.

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