Does terror in Europe mean the world has gone mad?
Not unless you’re blaming the victims. And you’re not doing that… or are you?
OK, sorry; probably you are.
Others have said this more eloquently than I, but I can’t sit silently snoozing through what I’m seeing. Here is just one of many memes going around Facebook last week.
The commentary seems to be of the opinion – and yes, people have actually said this – “The world has gone mad.”
Here’s just a random sampling – these all came up when I searched Google for “Aleppo, Zurich, Berlin,” and I don’t know any of these people personally.
That’s a whole lot of solidarity. So why does everybody seem to think the world has gone mad?
Because terror has left its nice cozy boundaries.
Where are those boundaries? Well, you know, the dangerous places, where presumably, it belongs.
I think we all do this to some extent.
Since 9/11 the world has experienced the same thing, to varying degrees, in just about every country I can think of. The Hype cachere incident in France was just one of a number of attacks around the world that stood out. For me and those I know, the 2014 incident in the parliament buildings in Ottawa struck home since the person who did it was a convert to Islam and could have been anybody’s neighbour. Then there was the attack in Nice earlier this year.
(Okay, I have to share the following tasteless meme…)
But it seems like the world isn’t learning, and the only reason for that, at least I can see, is that we’re blaming the victims.
Here’s why I think so. All over the world, every time something bad happens, people change their Facebook images out of solidarity and share well-meaning memes with the names of cities, victims, and dates.
You know when they don’t share passionate, heart-wrenching memes?
When the terror happens in Israel. Actually, I’ll broaden this. When the terror happens in Israel, or anywhere else that people should have known not to be. You know, one of the dangerous places. Places with palm trees, places full of people who have darker shades of skin than “we” do.
A Muslim terror attack in Tunisia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, or Israel? Well, hey, those guys ought to have known.
The same terror attack in Germany, France, the United States (heaven forbid!), or Canada? OMG, those are innocent victims we’re talking about here.
I wish I was exaggerating.
Now, to some extent I believe that blaming the victims is essential. It’s what gets us through life. We look the other way and say, “Nah, this place I live doesn’t have _____ (fill in the blank: pollution, terrorism, active volcanoes, earthquakes, deadly reptiles). So I’ll just keep on living here.”
(As I write this, the giant refineries down the street are on fire and tossing loads of toxic particulates into the air right here in my backyard.)
I think we all do this to some extent. Say a friend is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and dies inside of 4 months; you have to on some level think, "They were just a pancreatic cancer kind of person," in order to stay sane and not melt into a puddle of fear that something like that would happen to you?
(Okay, I always figured blaming people was you have to do to stay sane, like the way autistic people don't block out stimuli that neurotypical people do, and that's why they get overwhelmed. We block out the horrible possibilities so we can keep walking across that narrow bridge. But a psychologist friend says he doesn’t, so maybe not everybody is like me.)
But anyway, this is where Facebook comes in.
In order to re-adjust our perspective so we don’t go insane living in a dangerous world, we post these memes and share all about what a tragedy it is. Isolating it from the nonstop parade of tragedy all over the world so we don’t head home and crawl under the covers, and sharing this mistaken idea with our friends to hold their hands – they’re justifiably scared – and make sure they know you’re in the same boat.
This re-adjusting our perspective keeps us sane, so much so that even if a terrorist incident happens nearby, as did happen in sleepy little Ottawa, the capital of Canada, we can still keep insisting “not the sort of thing that happens to us.” Which is shocking.
Don’t get me wrong. People do it here in Israel, too.
(Heck, one person I met who lives and works within 10km of the Gaza border told me she moved there because it was a peaceful place to live, something she still believes even after 5 years of nonstop war.)
When there’s an incident in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or the West Bank, the people up here in the north say to themselves, “Well, no wonder; it’s so dangerous down there.” Following a year of scary stabbing attacks in Jerusalem, my children’s schools decided this year that they’re not sending any trips to that city – it’s simply too dangerous.
Bearing in mind that this is a place where, ten years ago, school children were being bombed from Lebanon, this is quite a disconnect.
I saw and heard the same thing when I went down to southern Israel a few weeks ago to learn about resilienece from some of the psychologists there and the volunteers who work with them, counselling communities for whom the war with Gaza never did end.
Why don’t people leave the area around Gaza? Why don’t they move somewhere safer?
And if a rocket does fall on them, killing somebody, those of us on the Outside shake our heads and ask, “Why didn’t they get away? I live far away and even I know how dangerous it is there.” Even Canadians know it’s dangerous in Sderot.
But as the psychologist there said, “This is Israel. You can’t run away from terror.”
I would go further and say, “This is the world today. You can’t run away from terror.”
I remember a few days after 9/11, it was Rosh Hashanah, and our shul’s rabbi stood up on the bimah and said, “Now the world will get it. Now America will get it.”
The fear, uncertainty and vulnerability that Israel, and many Jews around the world, live with every day.
The U.S. was gearing up for a war on terror, and we figured that would mainly be good for Israel, because terror is terror. Suddenly, the U.S. realized what Israel had known for a very long time: that a country doesn’t need to actually declare war in order to be at war. Indeed, that you don’t have to go to war against a country at all. Just against the evil that has corrupted its heart.
Because that’s what it is, folks. It’s not madness. The world has not gone insane, U.S. election results notwithstanding. Terror is evil, and it knows no boundaries.
But America never did get it, as memes like this show. We’re still just blaming the victims.
Just as courts eventually started declaring that no woman deserved deserves to be raped, no matter what she’s wearing, we all have to realize that nobody deserves to die or be injured just because of where they live or where they happen to be standing or their political views.
One-time memes with the names of cities and victims may call attention to a particular place and time, but they belittle the terror happening everywhere else, to everyone else, particularly here in Israel, where so many people around the world, even nice people, believe that on some level that we’re “asking for it.”
Memes like this close our minds rather than opening them. By singling out the terror that “doesn’t make sense,” you’re ultimately reinforcing the wrong belief that there are some places terror is simply okay.