The Politics of Mourning


My heart aches for the slaughter of more than 100 innocent people last night in Paris. And for those injured. And for the millions of Parisians who are sitting in their homes in fear right now. And for all of those waiting to hear news of loved ones.

However, I am distraught about the fact that the media values these innocent lives so much more than the innocent lives of people in other parts of the world. How many of us have taken time to mourn the tens of thousands of Nigerians slaughtered by Boko Haram? Or the tens of thousands of innocent lives lost to the terrorist gangs of Honduras? Or the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have died in the incomprehensibly complex conflict plaguing that nation? Or those innocent human beings dying in conflicts that we know nothing about, because they reside in less glamorous cities? Or because the victims are just not like us. Or like what we imagine ourselves to be?

Iconic cafes, art, romantic vistas of the Eiffel Tower. Even if we have never been there, we have imagined ourselves there. So we can feel empathy for those innocent people.

Most of us have never imagined ourselves in the slums of Tegucigalpa. Most of us don’t even have an image in our minds of what those slums are like. I certainly have no image in my mind of Northern Nigeria. The rare footage that I have seen of war zones in Syria are so far removed from my life experiences, that I find it hard to identify at all.

So we mourn the Parisians.

But we, members of the human race, need to make the leap. We need to recognize the value of every innocent life lost to senseless violence. We need to be outraged even when the victims are not predominantly white. Or when the victims hold religious beliefs different from our own. Or when the victims are poor. Or when the victims live in less glamorous cities.
We need our nations to create policies that recognize and act on threats before white western journalists are beheaded. We need to be equally as outraged by bombings of produce stalls in Damascus as we are by gunfire in cafes in Paris.

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