OLSON: Je suis le monde

All victims of terrorism should be given equal attention

Over the past few weeks, the world has witnessed a renewed series of attacks inspired by radical Islam. These most recent attacks impacted the lives of people in France and Nigeria, and started conversations the world over. Certainly radical Islam has been at the forefront of U.S foreign policy concerns for the better part of twenty years, but recently the rise of organizations such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as well as Boko Haram in Nigeria has made it painfully evident that it is certainly not going away in the near future.

However, in light of these recent attacks I believe we have seen a fundamental difference in how the world, particularly the West, values the lives of others. After the tragedy in Paris, the world rallied around the French with the viral hashtag “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity with the grieving French community. World leaders met in Paris and marched in defiance of the tactics practiced by a corrupt religious interpretation that tarnishes the reputation of an entire community of faith. Unfortunately, the world did not share in this same sentiment for the victims of Boko Haram, who claimed in one day the lives of potentially 2,000 people. Despite the scale and horror of this attack, it was relegated to the background while media continued to discuss the implications of the twelve killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack. There were no viral hashtags, no marches by world leaders, just the quiet acknowledgement that it happened. This observation hauntingly echoes Joseph Stalin’s famous quote: “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic.”

If we are to take a unified stand against the violent tactics of terrorism, we must stop selectively choosing whose lives we actually care about. We must no longer only pay attention when the violence and destruction of terrorists is aimed at western values, cultures and political interests, but also when it is aimed at others who we may not identify as easily with. If we are to truly take a stand against such inhumanity, we can’t only be Charlie, but we must also be the oppressed, the victimized and the powerless regardless of race, skin-color, religion or strategic interest. We must finally admit that human life is truly valuable and fundamentally equal in worth. Until we do this, the moral footing upon which we rest our ideals of justice and humanity will certainly crumble under our own hypocrisy and selectivity. Whatever rhetoric we employ about the rights of others and liberating the oppressed will be rightly perceived as a thinly-veiled excuse for furthering our own interests. We must be brave enough to look injustice in the face and call it such, and bold enough to stand with the powerless even when it is not the path of least resistance.

David Olson is a third-year in the College.

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