Reflecting on the Paris Aftermath

BY: JOE MATTHEWS

On September 11, 2001, French newspaper Le Monde wrote that, today “we are all Americans.” On November 14, 2015, a sea of tricolored Facebook profile pictures echoes a similar sentiment, “nous sommes tous français.”

I’ve never felt so shaken from reading a piece of news before in my life. I don’t know if it were Paris' proximity from England, the familiarity I have with Paris having visited multiple times, the fact that the majority of the bloodshed occurred at an Eagles of Death Metal concert, a band that I saw live just a month ago, or the fact that I’m away from my family on a year abroad. I feel like the unforgivable act of violence should be enough in itself to shake anyone up, but the sickening fact is that in the world we live in, we’ve become desensitized to it. How has it come to be that no one is really surprised to read that religious extremists have massacred over a hundred innocent people? The surprising part is not so much the barbarity itself, but the location.

The day after the Paris attacks, the devastating news also reported that one of the many victims was a foreign exchange student from California State University, Long Beach, where I am currently studying. Her name was Nohemi Gonzalez. 

I understand the fear and apprehension of moving away from your family to experience a different culture, but there’s a reason that I, and every exchange student does it: to enrich their lives through experiencing a different culture. Why should a young woman, who simply wanted to break away from the monotony of her culture, have to lose her life? I am in no way trivializing the plethora of other human lives that were tragically cut short during the Paris attacks on Friday, November 13, but this one really hit me hard.

An event such as this encourage the commentary of many social media users, commentaries that I both agree and disagree with. To the people who have changed their Facebook profile pictures to the French flag filter: ignore the cynics. You are part of what I see as a touching act of solidarity, and are at the very least, showing that your thoughts are with the people of France.

To the people saying how the media are overlooking similar tragedies in Baghdad and Beirut: I agree. While Paris deserves all the attention it has gotten, the similar acts of terrorism in Lebanon and Baghdad should not be overlooked. They may not be as close to us as Paris, but they affect human beings too.

And finally, to the Britain’s First supporters, UKIP voters and general Nationalists saying how this is a perfect example of why Europe should stop assisting refugees: get off Facebook, pick up a newspaper (no, not the Daily Mail) and educate yourself. Don’t you think that this barbarity, this contempt for human life, this abhorrent extremism is the exact reason why these refugees place their lives into the hands of people smugglers? The reason why they put their children in unstable boats and push them out into a turbulent sea? The reason why they throw themselves at the mercy of European nations? To escape from these inhuman monsters? Put your own selfish agenda aside for one second, and stop worrying that this sort of violence is going to spread to London. Put it aside and empathize with the people who face this violence on a daily basis.

Tragedies such as these make it easy to hate humanity; they make it easy to question why thousands of years of evolution has not produced a race that can live in harmony together, live like the world that John Lennon envisioned in "Imagine." They do, however, make it easy to look past the compassion and solidarity that people, domestically and worldwide, show in the wake of these atrocities.

To every Parisian who opened their door to a stranger. 

To every taxi driver who turned off their meter to whisk another person away to safety.

To every paramedic who arrived on the scene.

To every person around the globe who has stood with France against extremism.

Humanity thanks each and every one of you, because it’s easy to overlook the light in times of such darkness.