This piece was published in the December 2015 issue of the Prep News
When I think of Friday the 13th, the first thing that pops into my head is black cats and a man with a hockey mask wielding a chainsaw. However, on Friday, November 13th, the world was exposed to a much worse horror. According to BBC News, 130 people lost their lives in Paris, while hundreds more were wounded due to attacks perpetuated by the radical Islamic state.
On the same day, a pair of suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon, while wounding at least 209 others, according to the New York Times. It’s totally possible, and totally reasonable, that you had absolutely no idea this happened; and that’s a huge problem of how we prioritize western societies.
On November 14th, there was public outpour for the French akin to the support the United States received after 9/11. Aside from a petty token mention in a few public addresses, the attacks in Beirut were left relatively alone.
The western world rallied around France, while several nations, including the United States, pledged to aid the French militarily. The west also showed support for the French by “declaring war” on ISIS; words that have been said by the Commander and Chief himself. Still, the countries being ravaged by conflict in Middle East were left without much care.
A question was left stirring in my head: why are we just now becoming outraged? There has been a civil war raging in Syria for four-and-a-half years, and the United States has only intervened to destroy ISIS, not to end the conflict itself.
According to the New York Times, at least 45,872 civilians have been killed in Syria since the start of the civil war. This includes governmental air attacks, kidnapping, detainees and torture victims—a far cry from the number of westerners that have been killed by due to these conflicts.
In fact, according to The Washington Post, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s military has killed 7,894 people between the months of January and July, while ISIS has killed 1,131. That is something incredibly disturbing and incredibly important in and of itself; we care much more about resolving things of unpleasant nature when we become scared of them.
Because, let’s be honest, you were probably aware of the thousands of people dying in the Middle East, you just preferred not to think about them, or didn’t think they were pertinent because they weren’t being reported on.
But now, the Paris attacks have struck uproar in every sense of the word. They have become the focus of legislation being passed to authorize military action throughout the world, as well as making it to the forefront of questions being asked to our presidential candidates in nationally broadcasted debates.
Still, three weeks after the attacks, the tragedies in France are still a hot button issue being discussed and reported on in the media; no such coverage of the thousands of innocent people dying in not only Syria, but the Middle East as a whole, has had the same longevity.
These types of tragedies are not new, they are simply easier to relate to now, which makes them much more horrifying.
Perhaps the most horrifying thing to come out of the Paris attacks would have to be our response to it. Instead of showing that we can unify as a humanity committed to resisting evil and discrimination, we have shown fear cannot only divide us, but also question some of our country’s basic principles.
Our country was populated by immigrants and refugees. Personally, I wouldn’t be an American today had my family not been forced from Ireland due to the potato famine in the mid 1800s that killed about a million people. Had my family been denied entrance into the United States, there’s a fair chance I wouldn’t be here at all. In my own way, I am from a family of refugees, as a good number of our population is.
The notion of only accepting Christian refugees is also appalling to the foundations that the United States was founded upon. The first amendment states explicitly that the government is not allowed to create any law or discriminate people based on their religion; exclusion from our country based on religion crosses these boundaries.
While all but two Republican presidential candidates want to restrict all Syrian refugees, which is appalling in its own way, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz attempting to find sympathy by allowing Christians the right to live is horrifying in its own way. Donald Trump took this discrimination to another whole level Sunday, calling for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country. The lines of the first amendment are beginning to become mired under the guise of protecting our country.
So it is especially infuriating how we are treating these people, people who could very easily die without seeking refuge in foreign lands. Even looking for refuge can have its own cost. According to NBC News, since the beginning of Syria civil war, around 3,500 people have died at sea attempting to flee the turmoil in their homeland.
It is clear that we are dealing with this situation terribly, and what’s even worse is we’ve done it perfectly before, most evident during and after the Vietnam War. According to the Migration Policy Institute, approximately 125,000 Vietnamese refugees sought shelter in the United States. In order to process the Vietnamese and give them proper security checks, immigrants were transported to Guam while being processed so they wouldn’t be in danger of the war raging with the Viet Cong at the time. While Guam’s and other United States territories’ ability to handle that kind of influx of people has certainly changed since then, we are also not trying to immigrate 125,000 people to our country.
Clearly, the Rockhurst community’s sphere of influence is rather small on affecting legislation with these issues. However, our attitude towards these issues speaks leagues about our character. As “men for others,” are we really going to preach against possibly saving 10,000 people’s lives? Or rather, to go for the “magis,” are we really satisfied with only giving 10,000 people refuge? As a community that preaches brotherhood, who are we to turn away our fellow brother and sister into possible death?