I want to write about Paris.
I want to write in particular about the discomfort some feel with the attention this tragedy is getting, at least compared to other larger-scale violence in the world. Aren’t people dying violently every day? Isn’t there a refugee crisis on our hands? Where’s the outrage there?
I hear you. And while I don’t agree with all the discourse, here is what I hope we can all agree on.
First: A human life is a human life is a human life. Country of origin does not make your life more or less valuable.
Second: Death is, excuse the word, total shit. As someone who has dealt with her fair share of it in the last month, I know the heartbreaking ripple of pain any death leaves. And deaths which are particularly senseless, or violent, or bred out of hatred? They’re the worst. They’re so bad, we have laws and systems in place to stop people from causing those deaths.
Third: In some places, you can count on those don’t-kill-each-other laws to make things a little safer. In other places, not so much. The system in place to protect citizens from brutal, unnecessary violence is a little more dependable in some countries than others. That’s one of the reasons we have a refugee crisis right now; people would prefer to live in a country where they have chance to survive, thankyouverymuch.
The fact of the matter is, the whole “law” thing isn’t really working in every country. In many places, there are broken governments, really bad neighbours, powerful extremist groups, and all sorts of corruption standing in the way of peoples’ safety.
Now, I can’t speak for how individuals feel when they hear about people dying in these less-than-safe countries, but here are two things we probably don’t feel: We don’t feel overly surprised. And most of us don’t feel like there is a whole lot we can do.
It’s a little different when people die violently and senselessly in countries that are supposed to be safe. A shock pulses through the world because it is, well, shocking. There is confusion and horror and, oh yes, headlines and hashtags. If that country is democratic and has a decent economy, there is an increased urgency from the general population; a feeling that we can do something, that we should do something, that we have both the responsibility and the resources to keep this country safe.
And if we don’t? Well, then, the fear is that there is no such thing as safety, or law and order. If this brutality can penetrate Paris, where does it stop?
These might seem like hyperbolic questions. I get that. But this is where the outpouring of coverage and discourse is coming from. Everyone feels a little less safe in a place where they are supposed to feel safe. A place sought by refugees because it was perceived to be free of the violence they tried to escape.
After all, if the whole world becomes unsafe, where would these refugees go?
NOW, let’s get back to those things we agree on.
1) Every life is valuable;
2) Death is shit;
3) Some places are, sadly, safer than others.
With that in mind, it is appalling to me that anyone would use this as an opportunity to keep innocent people out of safer places.
There are serious questions facing our governments right now: How do we separate the victims from the perpetrators when they knock on our doors? When we take people from a place suffering from chaos and hatred, how do we keep them from bringing some of that chaos and hatred with them? Safe countries, after all, have an obligation to keep their current citizens safe. And so I understand temporary measures put in place to find answers to these questions before accepting more refugees.
I understand them, but I do not accept them as a long-term “solution.” Letting countless innocent people die by permanently locking down borders is not the answer. That only adds to the already devastating number of victims.
Let us mourn the deaths of the Paris attack.
Let us work together to keep our countries safe and secure.
But let us not allow our fear to unnecessarily raise the headcount.