“I spoke with my grandparents and cousin on Friday regarding the attacks. My grandfather, an extremely fearful man, boasted that he had predicted this catastrophe, and that it would surely spell the end of both America and France. When I asked him if my cousin, who lives 1 arrondissement away from the attacks, was okay, he mocked me for being afraid. My grandmother however was much more nurturing. She is certainly the more realistic of the two, so answered our questions with care, reassuring my sisters and I that our extended family was okay. Next, I talked to my cousin who, with his newly married wife and two-month old baby, lives a four minute walk away from one of the attacks. He, unexpectedly calmly, said that he and his family were safe, yet when I asked what he remembered, he broke down. Five minutes before I called, he had learned that one of our other cousin’s best friend was killed in the attacks. Although I had never met this person, she had clearly had a tremendous impact on my cousin. Likely because I talked to my family so soon after the attacks, the predominant reactions were fear and disbelief. Now, on one of our family email chains, the mood seems to be shifting towards anger. Anger at France for its involvement in Syria, anger at Hollande for not attacking Syria with enough firepower, anger at the IS for their actions, and anger at the world that seems increasingly divided.
When I first read about the attacks, I assumed I was reading about newly uncovered information regarding the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. When I started to get panicked texts from my sisters, I realized what had happened and immediately felt urge to vomit. After this initial reaction, I began to fear. Fear the life of my cousin, his wife, and newborn child living in Paris. Fear for my friends from middle school, some I knew lived in the very same arrondissement as one of the attacks. And fear for the world as I heard Hollande’s claim that, “We will fight and we will be ruthless.” This sort of assertion is understandable, yet will not lead to peace, will not bring back the ones who lost their lives, and will almost certainly breed more violence. As a country and as a world we should be focused not on reciprocating, but on helping the underprivileged. In a world where resources are becoming increasingly scarce, and diplomatic relationships are becoming further strained, the answer does not lie in further attacks, yet lies in promoting equality and better standards of life throughout the world.
The most direct reaction I have seen in America is through social media. People are changing their profile pictures, making status updates, and posting Instagram pictures in order to pledge support for France. Initially, I thought these were superficial and meaningless, yet in talking to two of my friends that are currently in Paris, I have found that they are deeply significant. My friend Victor said that seeing the thousands of profile pictures superimposed with the French flag inexplicably lifted a weight off his shoulders. This social media movement made him feel supported and contributed immensely to ridding his deep feelings of isolation. Another response I have seen from Lebanese friends of mine is disbelief at the difference in people’s reactions towards Beirut and Paris. I believe the disproportionate response shows a deeper inequality within modern day America in which we sympathize and support with people who are similar to us, and ignore and estrange those who are different.
Many Americans do not know it but there is incredible racism in France from people of French heritage towards Muslims. I fear that these attacks will exacerbate this problem that has largely been kept out of American media since France banned the hijab from being worn in public schools in 2004. As for Syrian refugees, this potential increased racism will certainly not help their dire predicament. I also fear for increased racism in America. After the attacks Friday, I heard a Belmont Hill student say that they would never be able to truly trust a Muslim again. When I asked why this was, the person stated that their religion was inherently “bad” as it prompted attacks like these. How can this still be happening? I believe the only way to cure such uniformed racism is through education. Belmont Hill can lead the charge by teaching about Islam. Showing students the truth behind the religion they so blindly fear is the only way to bring about acceptance.
As my Lebanese friends pointed out, the media’s coverage almost entirely neglected the immense attack at Beirut. In not covering such a tremendous attack, the media is conveying their believes that French lives matter more than those of others abroad. This lack of coverage is despicable and perpetuates underlying racism throughout our country. At a time when the world needs to stand together, the media has hopelessly torn it apart.”