On Spectator Sports

When did watching news broadcasts covering terrorist attacks become a spectator sport?

I was ten years old when 9/11 happened, and all I can remember from the days that followed is that people were hurting. People grieved. Grown men sat in front of their TV sets crying for the people who had lost so much that day.

Never once did I hear, “Why are we declaring solidarity for New York? There are people dying in Africa.” Or, “What, don’t you care about the people in Kansas City?”

So, my question is this: Why the hell are we doing that now? When did this become a spectator sport, to be analyzed and graded and deemed ‘worthy’ of human support?

After the terror attacks on Paris last week, the internet exploded with support for France and the people who lost loved ones that night. Not even a day later, I read a Facebook post that claimed that showing solidarity for Paris was misplaced, because there had been a bombing in Beirut. As if that wasn’t bad enough, that post was only the first I saw that night, from many different people, claiming that Parisians had less right to our condolences than others.

Here’s what I saw: Five horrific events occurred within a few days of each other. There were bombings in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad. In Minas Gerais, Brazil, a dam broke and flooded the surrounding area with toxic materials. In Japan, there was an earthquake. Too many people died. Even more were injured. Even more are homeless. Even more are grieving.

And our reaction? Well, this tragedy is more tragic than that one, and fuck you if you think otherwise.

When did this become something that received scores? Are we really just engaged in some sort of contest, and I just missed that memo?

Yes, the news in the West is focusing on Paris. For Americans, this is because the French are our brothers. For better or for worse, the travails of your brother concern you more than the travails of your neighbor. In no way does that excuse ignorance of your neighbor’s difficulties. In no way does that say that French lives matter more than Lebanese lives or Iraqi lives or Brazilian lives or Japanese lives. That’s to say that when something happens to a person who’s close to you, you notice it. And you feel it.

And, for the love of all that is holy, you support those people. Because they need it.

To say that someone cares less than you because they’re showing support for a different cause is childish. To say that Parisian mothers burying their children are shedding fewer tears than Lebanese mothers burying their children, or vice versa, is moronic. To say that no refugees should be brought into our countries because they’re all terrorists is racial supremacist fearmongering.

This is a crisis of humanity. The streets of this world are running red with the blood of our brothers and we sit around and adopt the manner of the stereotypical East German judge, assigning scores to how different places are handling events that never should have occurred.

Have we forgotten what it felt like to be the victims of that much hatred? Have we forgotten that France stood by us and helped us to pick up the pieces after 9/11? Have we forgotten how much it meant to us simply to know that not everyone out there was trying to butcher us in the streets?

If we remember those things, why are we criticizing anyone who would offer support to the victims of any kind of atrocity, natural or otherwise? Why are we ranking who is more ‘worthy’ of our help and attention when we benefited from people who offered it to us without even thinking?

Again, I ask: When did we become so desensitized to people dying violent deaths that watching the news became a spectator sport?

 

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