COMMENTARY – Paris should continue to enlighten us

by Tom Henihan

In the immediate aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, being concerned or preoccupied with anything else would have seemed callus and indifferent, akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
Shamefully, we did fiddle while proverbial Rome burned elsewhere. Also on Friday Nov. 13, a roadside explosion and suicide bombing in Baghdad, killed 26 people and wounded dozens more. The day before the Paris attacks, 43 people died in a suicide bombing in Beirut.
Why did the loss of life in Iraq and Lebanon not prompt the same outpouring of sympathy and a comparable media feeding frenzy, as did events in Paris?
I still have enough faith in humanity to trust that the vast majority of those who express their sympathy for people in Paris are in essence equally concerned for people in Iraq and Beirut. However, in spite of the internet and ubiquitous social media, most people in Europe, North America and elsewhere see day-to-day life in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria as an enigma difficult to imagine.
Though we obviously understand that acts of terrorism are equally devastating wherever they happen, being unable to grasp people’s day-to-day reality may account for our failure to empathize fully with their experience.
Self-important foreign correspondents and media in general, have been remiss in this regard, failing to humanize the plight of innocent people in regions that are both culturally and geographically distant. Instead, they offer the illusion that being on location gives veracity to their account.
Nevertheless, maybe one positive outcome of the attacks in Paris is that it will give us a sense of the reality that others in Baghdad, Beirut, Syria and numerous other regions contend with frequently.
Of course, others, instead of offering refuge go into siege mode, such as seven states in the US declaring that they would not accept any refugees.  ISIS must be pleased to learn that it can so quickly influence matters in North America.
Here in Canada there are also advocates for going into siege mode, who would prefer to see Canada shirk its responsibility and out of fear delay helping those in urgent need.
One such proponent is Saskatchewan’s white noise virtuoso and showboat captain, Premier Brad Wall, a man who never misses an opportunity to test his vocal range against his overreaching political ambitions.
In a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Wall said, “The recent attacks in Paris are a grim reminder of the death and destruction even a small number of malevolent individuals can inflict upon a peaceful country and its citizens. Surely, we do not want to be date-driven or numbers-driven in an endeavour that may affect the safety of our citizens and the security of our country.”
In saying, “Surely, we do not want to be date-driven or numbers-driven,” Brad Wall clearly misses the point. The date and numbers reflect the urgency of the situation and represent the wellbeing of men, women and children.
Due to the Paris attacks, if we further victimize those fleeing that same murder and mayhem, then maybe, we are indeed selective about the deaths we mourn and equally discriminatory as to whom we offer our solidarity.

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