From Far Corners of a Sphere

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’ll admit that I’m drawn back to the page for a combination of reasons.  This Friday marked two occasions, one much sadder and more important than the other: a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that shook the world, and Northeastern’s 10th (and my final) Husky Hunt.

If you’re a stranger to my blog, Northeastern University, or the Hunt, let’s just say that Husky Hunt is a 24-hour scavenger hunt that has been one of my favorite events, and that it being my senior year, this hunt was already more emotional than usual.  As after every Husky Hunt, I was deliriously tired, which made me want to pour out all of my emotions into a beautifully-written post (I’m always a bit overly optimistic about my blog) and share it with the world.  Because the 24-hours of competition are a bit jam-packed and involve biking around the city for hours, solving puzzles, running around campus for challenges, and monitoring the organizing body’s social media, I didn’t catch up on the news from Paris until this morning.

Upon my initial social media check, I was bombarded with Facebook profile photo changes, news of the events, and articles condemning one group or another for everything from political views to one’s identity as the current scapegoat to ignoring the terror in Lebanon.  There was terror in Lebanon?

I learned after quickly supporting Paris with an easy-to-access Facebook filter that more than 40 people had died two days before the Paris attack in Beirut.  While the world lunged forward to support a city that represents to many of us an idealized life, we ignored Lebanon, a country often lumped into the ambiguous notion of a warring Middle East that is often the only idea that we have of the region.  There are wars, there are skirmishes, there is terror – and as we have made habit of in the past decade or more, we’ve ignored it.

We’re all connected in this ever-evolving world, and with the rise of technology and globalization, we’re more connected than ever. No problem, no matter how far, is devoid of consequences that may one day affect us, even in the United States. We should care, and not only care about those countries that are on “our” side of that fine line dividing our ideas of “us” and “them”. Even when we imagine ourselves in far corners on an issue, there is no such thing as corners in a sphere; we’re all connected in an ever-growing web of human interactions.

I don’t think anyone on Facebook supporting Paris should get any sort of criticism for making a stand for something about which they care – this is the kind of shaming that prevents people from supporting causes that they don’t deem “theirs” and creating obstacles for well-meaning citizens to take a stand (example: feeling as though you’ll be criticized as a white person for supporting black lives, or as a straight person supporting LGBTQA rights, or anything where the privileged party feels partially to blame and then decides social media silence is the better option).  I did, however, want to support both Paris and Beirut in their recover and plight against terror, so of course the best option was to add a filter to my profile picture that represented both cities.


French flag on the left, Lebanon’s flag on the right.
I changed the photo itself as most of my photos exude happiness,
which I felt was inappropriate given the sentiment.

This bring me my next point – how much of a difference are we actually making by changing our profile pictures and tweeting our support?  What are we doing to help?  I happen not to hold too much against Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook; I think that the goal of connecting the world (see Zuckerberg’s plan to expand internet access) is a noble one, and I support the unity that matching profile pictures creates, as your feed becomes homogenous with a cause.  For this reason, I have not yet changed my photo from the original Facebook stripes to the merged flags.  Perhaps by the time you read this, I will have.

And then again, how much should we as individuals or the United States as a nation do for the rest of the world?  As an individual, I want to help those in need, who are fleeing Daesh and facing rejection from the rest of Europe, who are facing terror and mourning loss.  Am I instead obligated to help those closer to home?  I’ve faced criticism for not paying more attention to our homeless population or taking part in rallies to end various diseases; where should I place my financial support?  Is it not enough to want to help someone and to do it?  Must we all face this criticism?  And then as a government – should we send more foreign aid?  We’ve been criticized in the past for meddling in affairs that didn’t concern us – should we stay out of the way?  Should we act as though we won’t eventually be affected?

I wanted to write today that I am sorry for Beirut, and for Paris, and for the regions of Turkey and Syria that have faced so much violence.  I want the violence to stop, because our borders mean so little and our ideals are more similar than I think many of us would like to admit.  If you would like to add this filter to your profile picture, download the photo below and upload it to this website to combine with a photo of your choice.

Please remember that we are connected and that the most we can do is to live our lives with empathy; be aware of your prejudices and how they affect they way you see the world, and know that innocent parties exist in every group.  We’re never going to agree on everything, but our differences are what makes us who we are, and without them, society would lose its luster.  To those affected, I’m thinking of you.  Let us answer violence with peace.




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