When gay marriage was legalized in America, I was thrilled. I truly thought it was one of the most progressive and needed changes in this part of our world. It was a monumental day to be celebrated and so when FB came out with the idea to offer support by being able to change your FB pic to a rainbow overlay…I did not change my pic. I think a lot of my friends were confused by this because I have always been a staunch supporter of gay marriage. I even wrote a piece on it way back in 2002 when Germany first approved gay marriage. And I think I’m coming to my point here…I have ALWAYS supported gay marriage. Anyone who knows me could tell you that. Anyone who has met me for 5 minutes could tell you that. I have stood by it long before it was cool and trendy and as easy as changing my FB pic to say so. I worry that if we wait until something trends to speak up and be counted, that it negates the years of pain and suffering it took to get there. It seems somewhat trite to me. It feels too easy. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone has done anything wrong by changing their profile picture to rainbow, I just wanted to tell you why I didn’t change mine.
And today we are faced with yet another tragic event in Paris. The tri colored FB has come up to support everyone in France. And I find myself wanting to proclaim, I have ALWAYS been against terrorism, in any form, in any country. Even the kind that doesn’t make the news, like the one that happened only a day ago in Lebanon. I want to be so clear here….what happened in Paris is awful and had me hunched over my computer in tears asking the same thing everyone else is asking….why? I noticed something else though as my friends and FB followers started to change their pic over to the French colors. People were starting to get mad. Of course. Questioning turned to accusations. Accusations of politicians for not doing enough to prevent this. Accusations of not doing enough to revenge this. Accusations of who might be next to be targeted and who might be the instigator of this hellfire and brimstone. Neighbors start to become suspicious of neighbors. I start to worry about the muslim family in my parenting group that already seems to struggle to “fit in”. I worry about how their neighbors will feel about them now. The tri-colored FB becomes more and more prevalent until I receive a message from a friend who says, “why haven’t you changed your pic yet??” and it feels like less of a question and more like a demand.
A mob is brewing. And it takes no more than a few seconds to join it . People banding together for a cause when they are desperate, scared and emotional is truly as terrifying as acts of terrorism. They become the very thing they are banding against. They are willing to impulsively commit violent and heinous acts to stop what has made them feel so out of control, so helpless. It is a basic human instinct – to survive. The hate filled FB feed I keep reading is an act of survival. And I get it. I understand when someone has been mean to my child in the past, the emotion it stirs in me and the how hard it is not to fight back. I also understand the idea that if we let this instinct take over, then we will indeed find ourselves in a war. I for one am not old enough to have my own memories of what it feels like to be in a war. I can only recall black and white film towering down on us in the gym every Remembrance day when my privilege was too entrenched for it to mean very much to me. When I was too young to understand anything but the idea of being infallible. When I attributed war to something that happened in my grandparent’s generation.
We don’t really have a fair concept of war here in North America anymore. We don’t. We wear poppies and have bumper stickers on our cars that say “Support the Troops” but if we look at it, really look at it, we have done a dismal job of supporting our troops. You are more likely to be homeless or suicidal then supported if you are a military person coming back from war in this day and age. There are significant statistics of addictions, domestic violence, PTSD and disabilities. I spoke with a soldier who told me once that he signed up for another tour as soon as he got home because he felt different, out of step with his family now. He said he didn’t know how to do anything else but be a soldier and he accepted the risk of doing what he had become very. very good at doing. The cost of war. The disconnect of our soldiers. The risk of their lives. Apparently, this is the risk we’re willing to take….over there. Our concept of war is a far away one. We are demanding it without really understanding what that means.
I don’t change my FB pic because it does not clearly reflect what I am supporting. It does not include the colors of the Lebanese flag or the Kenyan flag (remember the 147 lives lost in a terrorist attack on a University back in April?). It does not reflect the soldiers that will take on the risk for us when we decide as a nation that we want “war”. It does not include every child I have encountered in my work who has lived in a refugee camp and seen the horrors of war first hand who now sits in the principal’s office every week because violence is their go to and because no one’s parents will let them come over to play. Here’s the thing, I support humans. I support the loss and the devastation that happens on both sides of the border – the mother who has no idea her child has made his way into an extremist group, the family who cries for the suicide bomber and the millions of people who live in fear of the person beside you who could be a terrorist. I grieve THAT. The suspicion and isolation we feel even as we “band together”. There are people who will hate me because I won’t hate the people they choose to hate. There are people who will hate me because I live in Canada. Period. I have neighbors who hate me because I’m divorced (yes that still happens). There are people who hate me because I’m tall.
Let’s be clear when we throw our support on a side. It is dangerous to be singularly focused on an issue – consider Nazi Germany – people changed their allegiance and their beliefs because it was the popular thing to do in that moment (I think we call that trending now) and because they felt thy had to and because eventually it meant you would be killed if you didn’t. I only ask you to consider how far are we from that right now? How close are we from condemning an entire nation, religion, culture because we are afraid? How far are we from imprisoning innocent people and indeed killing them because we are afraid? When people are in a mob mentality, it takes only a mere suggestion for people to get behind it to feel more in control, to feel like they can survive. We simply want to survive. All of us.
I haven’t change my FB pic because I don’t support Paris – I do support Paris. But you should know I support every person on this planet who is a victim of terrorism and I will not be selective in that support. I will grieve as equally for Lebanon as I do for Paris. And I will actively advocate for our leaders to do the same. I will prompt them not to be influenced by selective support and make decisions that are instead influenced by our foundation of democracy and freedom. This is not a sentiment. Should we actually and truly go to war, it would become a commodity that we cannot possibly understand the lack of right now. If we selectively decide who deserves these commodities then we put ourselves at risk for having it taken from us for “the greater good”. Indeed it would appear that this is the hallmark of terrorism – selective support. I’m just wondering where is the line for us?