Je Suis Paris? Sorry, Not This Time - I've Had Enough

"What is wrong with me? I don’t find any of this moving. In fact, I find it downright annoying.

And then it hit me.

None of my non-RI Facebook friends changed their profile picture to a Russian flag after the Airbus crash on Oct. 31.

Nobody urged me to pray for Russia."

We’ve been bombing, or talking about bombing, someone, somewhere my entire life.

At least, it feels that way to me.

<figcaption>Sorry, you can't be trusted</figcaption>
Sorry, you can't be trusted

I remember being about six or seven years old, running around my house, singing “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”

It is only now that I’ve been realizing how messed up that is. There I was, a little kid growing up in rural Michigan, wishing for the deaths of strangers because of a song I’d picked up from adults on the radio. Or maybe I didn’t realize there would be civilian deaths involved. To me, it was just a funny song. I was a kid; I didn’t know any better.

I grew up in a world that told me Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, and Slobodan Milosevic were “bad guys,” and people like Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin were “good guys.” We were bombing Kosovo for humanitarian reasons, the benevolent school TV news program Channel 1 reassuringly told me, from the TV’s prominent place in the corner of my classroom. I keenly remember a much younger Anderson Cooper broadcasting from a war zone I could barely find on my post-Soviet geography map, telling me everything would be okay as soon as the bad guys were dead. We had to do it. Milosevic was just like Hitler. We had no choice.

Nobody ever suggested it wasn’t so simple. Nobody suggested that the United States might not be the good guys. After all, we won World War II and the Cold War.

Right?

I look through my Facebook feed and I see all of my friends expressing “solidarity” with Paris in the wake of the recent attacks. People are changing their profile pictures to a transparent French flag. There are urgent pleas to “pray for Paris.” Everybody is dusting off their high school French.

I find myself unable to join in the collective mourning. Is it because I’m heartless? (Because let’s face it, I might be.) Is it because nobody I know was injured or killed in the attack? Looking through my feed, with more profile pictures becoming blue, white, and red, and more and more hastily created memes popping up, I am just getting angrier and angrier. People keep wondering why this happened. I want to tell them, but I hold back. I was already unfriended by people I considered friends because I suggested maybe people didn’t need to call Kim Davis a fat, ugly slut to get their point across. I don’t want to take the chance. Nobody wants to hear, “This is your fault.”

What is wrong with me? I don’t find any of this moving. In fact, I find it downright annoying.

And then it hit me.

None of my non-RI Facebook friends changed their profile picture to a Russian flag after the Airbus crash on Oct. 31.

Nobody urged me to pray for Russia.

Or Beirut. Or Syria. Or Iraq. Or Palestine.

Nobody had really said anything at all.

Their silence was deafening.

And who could blame them, really? After receiving a thorough brainwashing to the effect that the U.S. and its allies are the last line of defense in the fight for truth and justice, why would American citizens, so convinced of Russia’s inherent evil, care about a bunch of dead Eastern Europeans? Hadn’t Wesley Clark, their top general, said as much in response to the Egyptian plane crash? And don’t all Russians support Vladimir Putin, a warmongering homophobe? Isn’t it really their own fault for getting involved in Syria?

A day after the tragedy in Paris, a ray of hope started to emerge. I saw my friends posting reminders about Beirut, and articles about Paris and privilege. They avoid mentioning Russia, though. It's a taboo subject. Maybe nobody wants to show solidarity with Russia for fear people will think they are homophobic. I understand Russians who show solidarity with Paris, and I think it's incredibly classy of them. Because they didn't cause all of this. Because this can't be easy for them. After Charlie Hebdo published the cartoon mocking the plane crash victims. After the Western media refers to perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Russia as "rebels" and those in Paris as "terrorists."  After you are threatened by NATO for protecting your borders. After you are harassed, humiliated, maligned, slandered, ignored, and treated like children. Russia, how do you go on? 

This is a nice moment, and people are starting to "get it."

But I know all too well the length of the attention span of most Americans. They will all be Parisians for a day or two, and then they will fall silent. In a week or so, some Republican presidential candidate will say something idiotic, like claiming the moon landing was a liberal hoax, or that Mexican immigrants cause autism. Or something. Then there will be more hastily made memes. More Facebook apps to show solidarity. More of the same, ad nauseum. Am I heartless? Or am I just exhausted? 

Oh, well. At least the stupid Starbucks cup has been forgotten.

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