Today is the day that the international community determined would commemorate one of the biggest stains of our recent history: the Holocaust. Some three quarters of a century later the wounds of the Holocaust are still everywhere, from the museums that educate to the survivors who lament. The rallying cry is ever-loud and powerful, as well it should be: NEVER AGAIN!
Yet today, as I look around, the cry seems a formality only. So much is happening in the world right now that is scary, worrying, and even downright wrong. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who lived in the mid and late 1930s could tell what was about to happen. I wonder how we would even know if those situations were rising again. To me, never again is a comforting slogan, but not much else.
I ask myself, what has the world actually learned as a result of WWII? When we say never again, what and who is encompassed in that promise? Have we done things differently in the last several decades? Has anyone learned anything at all? I’m not sure.
The mass shooting at San Bernardino has left us all reeling. In the hours immediately after the event, most people thought it was another lone shooter. Muslim everywhere were probably heaving a sigh of relief that it wasn’t another terrorist attack. Then the name of the alleged shooter comes through media wires, and we are down the rabbit hole all over again. “Muslim Killers” screams a New York Post headline and suddenly we all forget the most important thing: America has just had yet another mass shooting.
As Muslim Americans worry about the backlash, as brown people everywhere worry for their own safety, gun lobbyists are laughing their way to the bank. When a white person shoots into a crowded building, they are in the hot seat for just a little while as discussions about gun control and the mentally ill circulate the airwaves. But when a Muslim does the same, the media calls it terrorism and the discussion veers towards radicalization and ISIS and everything else “Islamic” with those very big quotation marks.
Don’t get me wrong, when somebody uses guns and IED devises to kill 14 people, when his home is full of pipe bombs, I’m the first one to call him a terrorist. I don’t care whether he’s Muslim or Christian or atheist. If you spread terror, you are a terrorist and you deserve everything you get in this world and the next. But what infuriates me is how easily and quickly the media narrative shifts away from the issue of gun control. And that’s why gun lobbyists love terrorists. They no longer have to answer about why the United States has the highest gun violence rates in the developed world, or why an archaic constitutional amendment is being used to perpetuate and glorify a culture of violence.
Here we go again. Paris is under a state of emergency due to terrorist attacks, and the world is mourning yet again. My heart should bleed, but I am completely numb by now. I don’t think there is a drop of blood left in my heart to shed for innocent victims of yet another heinous, barbaric attack.
A picture is worth a thousand words, even more so in the digital age than ever before. My experience has been that images are amazing things, with the power to anger, comfort or heal. They have the power to change opinion, to reflect harsh realities. And the last two days have been fraught with all the baggage that comes from one tiny image with a huge message. You know the one I’m talking about, of course. Who hasn’t seen the image of little Aylan’s still body on the beach? Who hasn’t been moved by the thought of a little boy drowning for the mistakes of his countrymen? I know I have. Yesterday while driving on the highway to pick up my kids from school, I listened to NPR’s account of refugees like Aylan’s family and their dangerous trek through Hungary, and I burst into tears. I had to navigate to the side of the road to calm down before I caused an accident. Why? Because it could be me, it could be my child’s drowned body, it could be any of us.
Credit: Raw Story.
Hate disguised as free speech is a particularly ugly thing. Google Maps labeling the White House as N****r House is no less disgusting than a French magazine drawing the Prophet Muhammad in a stereotypical or untrue sketch. As I see the intolerance among us grow and ultimately divide us, I fear for the world we will leave our children and grandchildren in. Instead of learning to live in peace and love, we still think of ourselves as Muslims, Jews, Christians, white, black, brown, Israeli, Palestinian.
Shalom and Peace! Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day I would like to share a recent experience that changed my perspective in an unexpected way. My perspective about Jews, about the Holocaust, about myself. Sounds mysterious? I didn’t mean it to be. Let me go back a couple of weeks and start again.
Social media is fast becoming my main source of information, a fact that speaks volumes in itself. This morning I checked my Twitter feed and found myself filled with horror and sadness. Three young Muslims were killed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by a 46-year old madman. What was their crime? What was the murderer’s motivation? The police are silent, or rather they parrot the same lines they always do whenever this kind of incident occurs. Every lead must be investigated, we will not say anything until we are sure. The latest? The murderer had a beef with his victims over parking.
We have an Islamophobia problem in this country. Typically I don’t like using the “I word” because it’s easy to see how others may hold a different view than mine about what constitutes hate and bigotry. But the news out of Austin, TX this week is startling in a number of ways and the word Islamophobia just fits perfectly, especially the phobia part. A group of Muslims from Texas, many of whom I know personally, went to Austin to this week to meet their elected officials and they had a few unpleasant surprises waiting for them. The worst part? It was all under the guise of patriotism and loyalty.
It’s been almost two weeks since terrorists entered the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris and killed more than a dozen in the name of Islam, allegedly to avenge the insulting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Two weeks of anger, confusion, heartache and a loud cacophony of voices. Two weeks of Muslims being asked to condemn the terrorists, asked to condemn ISIS and Al- Qaeda, asked to prove that we stand with freedom of speech and not violence and terrorism. It’s an old, tired subject that we have literally beaten to death, yet we continue.
This morning I woke up unaware of the ordeal hundreds had endured overnight while I slept. Terrorists had entered a school in Peshawar and killed more than a hundred innocent children while my own safely dreamed in their soft beds. My Twitter feed alerted me to the calamity that had befallen the land of my birth, and the rest of the day was spent in a strange kind of agony. How many of us sleep safely in our beds without a thought for those who are killing and being killed in other parts of the world? Perhaps we have become immune to the suffering of others because that’s the only way to survive the mental and emotional stress of living in a violent and cruel world.