We show solidarity with countries hit by terrorism by using their flag. With others, not so much

On the night of Friday, November 13, 2015, the city of Paris was the victim of several terrorist attacks. These coordinated attacks killed 130 people and another 368 were injured. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

On Sunday, March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, in the city of Lahore in Pakistan, a terrorist bombing targeting Christian worshipers killed 72 people and injured over 320 more. Most of the killed and injured were women and children. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Almost immediately after the attacks on Paris, Facebook profile pictures all over the world were overlaid with the French flag. Doing this to your profile picture was a symbol of standing in solidarity with the French people. Virtually everyone who had a Facebook page in America was temporarily changing their profile pictures in this way, and they should have done so; it was the right thing to do. Who doesn’t want to show our French brothers and sisters how much we feel for them in this time of trouble? After all, it wasn’t all that long ago when The United States suffered the most horrific attack on American soil since WW2. We know the feeling, and it doesn’t feel good.

But, if you looked to your Facebook feed at anytime during Easter Sunday or the days that followed, did you see any Facebook friends with a Pakistani flag overlaying their profile picture? You probably didn’t, and that’s ok. No one should be in the business of shaming you for whom you support and whom you don’t. Isn’t it interesting, though, how we pick and choose who is worthy of our solidarity and support when hit by a cowardly terrorist act and who is not? Or maybe it’s not that they aren’t worthy, it’s just that we don’t know them well enough to care.

To be fair, just five days prior to the Easter attack in Lahore, Brussels, Belgium was hit by terrorist attacks. In these terrorist assaults, 35 people were killed (including three suicide bombers) and over 300 people were injured. You were probably hard pressed to find the flag of Belgium overlaying anyone’s face. Maybe there was a handful, maybe even more. In America it didn’t show up as often as the French flag, but then again, Belgium isn’t France. Dutch doesn’t roll as trippingly off the tongue as French, and Belgium isn’t as popular. After all, Les Miserables takes place in France.

Sometimes we get so numb to violence across the seas that we forget human beings populate Pakistan and Belgium. It might sound a bit condescending to mention it, but do we forget that? Do we forget that babies in New York and Oklahoma City cry, wet themselves, and long for their mothers in the exact same way as babies in Pakistan, Turkey, Belgium or any other city or town in the whole wide world?

Maybe we don’t recognize the victims in Pakistan or Belgium because we’ve gotten so desensitized to the violence and destruction that gets reported to us here in America from the far off places in the world. When a bomb goes off in Paris, it hits us right in the mouth because we know people there, maybe not in person, but we see their movies, we eat their food, we love their art, we visit there quite often.

If a bomb explodes in New York, we lose our minds, as well we should; it’s a horrific experience. It’s our country and we’ve been violated. Action must be taken and justice has got to be swift. If it’s not swift enough, we might forget, unless we all overlay our Facebook photos with the American flag.

To be crystal clear: overlaying your Facebook photo with a country’s flag is not a bad thing to do. In fact, it’s a great thing to do. Every time you log on you’ll be reminded of what occurred. We shouldn’t forget things like the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, or Paris. But we also cannot forget the countries that suffer the same kinds of terrorism as the more popular cities in the powerful countries of the world.

If terrorism has taught us anything over the last 30 years or so, it’s that people bleed the same color in Somalia as they do in Paris or Brussels. Innocent people lose limbs in Pakistan and Cairo the same way they do in New York City or Oklahoma City.

There is only one way terrorism will win – Apathy.

If every time a terrorist attack took place anywhere around the world we changed our Facebook profile photo to be over laid with the flag of the victimized country, that would not come close to being enough. But it would be something. Being reminded several times a day about the atrocities that have occurred to fellow human beings pulls us to do more, to do whatever we can.

Showing support in that way means more than you think. When we show solidarity, we are unifying with the victims. It means that we are with them. It might surprise you to learn just how much a simple gesture like a Facebook photo alteration can mean to souls who are yearning for someone to commune with them, even if it is halfway around the world.

We cannot only recognize and support those who are privileged. We must speak up for and acknowledge everyone who suffers from terrorism, whether it’s in The United States, France, Belgium, Pakistan or anywhere human souls walk the Earth. If we want to change the world we need to start somewhere. Why not start with your Facebook profile picture?

4 COMMENTS

  1. You whole point was an April Fools Day joke right? You were making fun of vapid narcissistic and silly social media right? You considered suggesting that everyone pour buckets of water over their heads and post videos of it on Facebook to stop terror attacks, right? Great hilarious piece. I see a couple of naive people thought you were serious. Wicked!

    • Amacracow, I really do appreciate you reading this and weighing in, and you missed the entire point of my article.

  2. I have a hard time regarding the perpetrators of such slaughter as human beings. Or I just feel anger and despair. How are human beings so fucked up? And there’s just so much human suffering I can respond to.

    In any case, it’s not “apathy” that motivates people to join ISIS. It’s some kind of perverted idealism – at least in some cases. Or some mix of anger and desperation. Or maybe it’s just a rootless craving for excitement in marginal sociopaths. Or its whatever it is about some young people that makes them such ideal cannon fodder.

    But I can’t get too worked up about what pictures folks don’t post on Facebook – as if it makes a difference to the terrorists in the world! Or to someone in a hospital bed discovering that an arm and leg are gone.

    As far as Pakistan, I don’t know where it figures in the collective consciousness of Facebookers. But just to put out a few ideas that just *might* be somewhere on their collective radar:
    1) Pakistan is the place where they throw roses at the assassin of a moderate public figure.
    2) Pakistan transferred nuclear technology to North Korea.
    3) Pakistan sponsors terrorist attacks in India.
    4) Pakistan hid Bin Laden.
    5) The U.S. is in Afghanistan really because of our concern for the stability of its neighbor Pakistan. Nuclear Pakistan. Marginally stable Pakistan. Potentially Talibanized nuclear Pakistan.
    6) Pakistan is a good place (among others) to be murdered by your family for “shaming” them, if you happen to be a woman that doesn’t hew to the norm, like marrying whom you want.

    Those are NOT reasons not to mourn the latest dead and maimed. But do ya think we might have just a little less resonance with the Pakistanis than with the French?

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