June 22: Amman, Jordan, military checkpoint, 6 dead. June 27: Mukalla, Yemen, Security target, 42 dead, 30 injured. June 28: Istanbul, Turkey, Airport, 45 dead, 239 wounded. July 1: Dhaka, Bangladesh,Small bakery, 30 dead. July 2: Baghdad, Iraq, Neighborhood, 200+ dead, 147 wounded. July 4: Medina, Saudi Arabia, Mosque. At least 4 dead. At least 5 injured.
As I write this, the death toll in Medina continues to grow; it’s too soon to accurately count bodies. But still very few will pay attention.
The world reeled, the media buzzed, and Facebook grieved November 13 when bombers and shooters instigated a coordinated attack in Paris that left 130 dead and hundreds wounded.
The world reeled, the media buzzed, and Facebook grieved again on December 2, when two shooters in San Bernardino, CA killed 14 and seriously injured 22.
The world reeled, the media buzzed, and Facebook grieved again on March 22 when two bombings shook Brussels and killed 32 people and wounded over 300 others.
The world reeled, the media buzzed, and Facebook grieved again on June 12 when Omar Mateen went on a shooting rampage at a nightclub in Orlando, FL, killing 49 people.
The world did not reel, the media did not buzz, Facebook did not grieve for Amman. For Mukalla. For Istanbul. For Dhaka. For Baghdad. For Medina.
My goal is not to chastise the coverage of the first set, but to challenge the unrepentant disregard of the second. For them, where is the outrage? The wall-to-wall media coverage? The memoriams? The videos on replay? The profile picture overlays? The hashtags? The “thoughts and prayers”?
In fact, those deaths were little more than a blip on a screen. because Donald Trump tweeted something else utterly imbecilic, Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, and Tim Duncan might retire. I mean, in the face of such groundbreaking developments, of course those victims took a back a seat: They don’t have fame, power, or prestige; they can’t sell newspapers; they don’t fuel any political narrative.
When Westerners are killed at the hands of “radical Islamic terrorists,” politicians can use it to get elected. When those politicians are elected, the military industry gets billions in government funding for the production of war machines. When those war machines are deployed, independent contractors are hired to work abroad in war zones. It’s a beautiful mechanism, carefully oiled for repeated use and reuse after every tragedy for maximum profit. Why change what people don’t see as broken?
When non-Westerners, when Muslims, when non-Whites are killed, it doesn’t just not fuel that narrative, it actively counteracts it. It doesn’t allow anyone to paint all Muslims as violent, ISIS as a fanatical anti-American jihadist group, or xenophobia as patriotism. But who likes nuances anyway?
Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, the radio silence does fuel one political narrative. But it’s the last narrative we ought to encourage. It’s the narrative of the attackers who argue that we think some lives– Muslim lives, Arab lives, Brown and Black lives– matter less. It’s the narrative that to acheive peace and liberation, violence is necessary. It’s the narrative that pits the West against the “Muslim world” and justifies the bloodshed.
So, I just wanted to use whatever voice I might have to remind you what is happening off-screen. When the media isn’t paying attention, when politicians aren’t shouting on podiums and platforms, when no one is changing their Facebook profile picture, people are being killed.
Those numbers– those numbers you probably didn’t hear about– look at the dates. All of those attacks occurred in less than the last two weeks. And each one of the tally marks is a life extinguished and tens of hundreds of lives more that are now broken, despairing, and grieving.
And to add to all that pain and suffering, these countries ought to be rejoicing. The holy month of Ramadan is ending and Eid-al-Fitr, one of the biggest Muslim holidays is in a few days. Usually, during this time, those countries are brimming with joy and festivities. There are feasts and parties and lights and excitement and laughter, and everyone puts away their differences for a few days to celebrate the blessed time of the year.
But instead there is grief, and there is blood, and there is destruction. There is a cry for help and for attention, and there is an overwhelming tiredness for having to grieve alone. Again.
And on the other side of the world, there is an indomitable wave of extreme apathy that glances at that carnage– that carnage that dared to interrupt its cool existence–, shrugs its shoulders, and turns back to the entertainment of the moment. Maybe it’ll even take a moment to send out “thoughts and prayers” if enough bodies are in the morgue.
So let us have a moment of silence for the dead, and may our consciences not be among those we have lost.