It has been a wild ride on social media this week. I watched as hundreds of people that are friends of mine on Facebook put an overlay of France’s flag on their profiles. I, too, did something to show my support, I put up a picture of my husband and I at the Eiffel Tower that was taken from a trip we took back in 2008.
The outpouring of support for France was everywhere. After a day or so I started to see articles written by people from Lebanon asking why there wasn’t the same type of support for them (just before the attacks in Paris, Beirut suffered a terrorist attack that killed 41 people. ISIS claimed responsibility).
There was a lot of what I have seen called, “grief shaming” going on. People were accusing other people of acting as if Lebanese lives don’t matter as much as French lives. There was an article out of Seattle today saying that the flying of the French flag on the Space Needle is racist.
I am actually in a unique position in regards to the claims of not caring as much for one group’s lives as much as another. My husband was born in Beirut, his first language is French, and we have family in both countries.
What did I do when I heard about the attack in Paris? I changed my profile picture to show support for France, not Lebanon. Does that mean I care less for the people of Beirut, the city where my husband was born? No. I care equally for the people of Beirut, how could I not when my own husband is Lebanese?
What happened to me, and what happened to many others is that the news of the bombing in Beirut didn’t reach us until after we had heard about Paris. I am not a news junkie, so I don’t always hear what is happening in the world the moment it happens unless it hits my circle on social media.
Information about the attacks in Paris was almost instantly on my newsfeed, and the same was not true for the attacks in Beirut. I don’t blame individuals for not caring as much about one group of people as much as the other. I blame the media for not covering the story in the same way.
Several hours after the attacks in Paris, I had already heard heartbreaking and terrifying stories from people who saw the attacks taking place. In other words, I had already met the victims. I met the first victim of the Beirut bombing today – the story of a man who threw his body on one of the terrorists which caused the explosives the terrorist had strapped to his body to explode. The man and his daughter died, but in the process he saved hundreds of lives. He died a tragic death, but he also died a hero.
So my response to all the “grief shaming” that I saw happening on social media and in magazines is to say that if “someone” is racist and cares more about French lives than Lebanese lives, that “someone” appears to be the media, because the coverage of the two incidents were completely lopsided.
On a blog about schizophrenia, why does any of this matter? It matters, because if the Lebanese people are asking us, “Do our lives matter less to you than the lives of others?” I want to have an answer for them. I constantly feel as if people with a mental illness are marginalized and treated as “less-than.” When I hear other people talking that way, my ears perk up, because I don’t want to be a person that is guilty of valuing one group of human beings over another. I constantly ask people to care about the mentally ill. I constantly ask people to care about the way the mentally ill are treated and about the issues that involve us.
How can I ask people to pay attention to my life, and what concerns me if I am unwilling to care about their life and what concerns them? I don’t feel like I have a right to do that. So, I am saying to the Lebanese people, yes, the world paid more attention to the loss of life in France than in Lebanon. Yes, cities all over the planet turned their landmarks blue, white, and red. We are guilty of this. I believe it has to do with the media, but next time, (hopefully there will be no next time) I will be monitoring my own behavior. I don’t want you to say that you spoke out about your pain, and the injustice of it all, and no one was listening. I heard you.