Thoughts on #PrayforParis and profile pictures


Each of us was profoundly saddened and angered by the terrorist attacks last Friday in Paris that killed 130 innocents and wounded hundreds more. The actions of the terrorists involved were despicable. Support and solidarity with the victims and their families should be our utmost priority. However, as such tragedies tend to do, the massacre in Paris ignited a fierce political debate regarding America’s response.
The events in Paris this weekend sent shock waves through our country and made the distant battle with Daesh, or ISIS, feel a whole lot closer. Many Americans feel as though Paris’s vulnerability indicates that the U.S. is also susceptible to such a calamity. Citizens of France itself were among the perpetrators, and a Syrian extremist who snuck his way in with the mass exodus of refugees to Europe may also have been involved.
People flocked to social media to show support for Paris and its citizens. Facebook profile pictures were filtered to include an image of the French flag. Tweets and statuses were posted with #PrayforParis. Every news feed, it seemed, was filled with prayers and saddened messages. While the outpour of support gained steam, many people in the social media sphere found fault with what they deemed to be superficial gestures. They criticized people who had altered their profile pictures, claiming that changing a profile picture has no noticeable effect or purpose. They suggested that most of these gestures were done for a selfish purpose — the profile pictures were simply a medium through which people could display how supportive and knowledgeable they were. This kind of criticism detracts from the genuine issue — modern-day terrorism.
While the Editorial Board is obviously united in the belief that these statuses and pictures should only be posted with genuine intentions, we do not believe that people should be criticized for trying to show support. It is no one’s place to decide whose gestures were legitimate and whose are self-centered. People show support in many different ways, and just because some people decide not to post a status or change their profile picture, it does not make it wrong for others to do so. The entire point of social media is to allow people to express themselves in whatever ways they see fit — if they want to temporarily add the French flag to their profile picture, who is anyone to say they shouldn’t do it?
The other argument that has been thrown out at an increasing rate is that the same people that were in solidarity with Paris should have also shown support for the suicide bombings in Beirut. The terrorism in that incident the day prior killed 40 people — if these people were so distraught by the senseless death in Paris, why did they not care about Beirut?
The Editorial Board firmly believes that this argument is misguided. People should be allowed to care about what they want to care about. If people elect to express remorse about Paris, they should in no way be required to also post about Beirut — or any other tragedy, for that matter. The argument that if you care about one tragedy then you must care about all tragedies is logically unsound and wholly unrealistic. It is akin to suggesting that if you donate to cancer research, you are in some way suggesting that all other diseases are unworthy of funding.
However, we also believe that as Americans, we tend to have a very Western-centric view of the world. It isn’t that the terrorism in other parts of the world is unimportant — we just tend to care most about European or American events. From the history classes we take growing up to the news we watch as adults, our mindset is very biased towards the West. It is important to be mindful of why we care about what we care about and to think critically about our inclinations. Our time in college should be one characterized by intellectual curiosity and growth in which we explore as much of our world and its knowledge as we can. We should strive to stay informed not only about Parisian tragedies but events all over the globe. It is crucial in our effort to understand the world around us. It makes us more well-rounded people, and it makes us better and more intelligent thinkers.

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