Beirut, Paris

I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I’ve always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago.

These have been two horrible nights. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut, the second took the lives of over 100 in Paris.

It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.

‘We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.

‘We’ don’t change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.

This could not be clearer.

I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.

It’s a hard thing to realize that for all that was said, for all the rhetoric of progressive thought that we have managed to create as a seemingly united human voice, most of us, most of us members of this curious species, are still excluded from the dominant concerns of the ‘world’.

And I know that by ‘world’, I am myself excluding most of the world. Because that’s how power structures work.

I do not matter.

My ‘body’ does not matter to the ‘world’.

If I die, it won’t make a difference.

Again, I say this with no resentment.

That statement is merely a fact. It is a ‘political’ fact, true, but a fact nonetheless.

Maybe I should have some resentment, but I’m too tired. It’s a heavy thing to realize.

I know that I’m privileged enough that when I do die, I will be remembered by friends and loved ones. Maybe this blog and an online presence might even gather some thoughts by people around the world. That’s the beauty of the internet. And even that is an out of reach privilege to too many.

But never before have I understood what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote when he spoke of the Black Body in America. I think there is a story to be told with the Arab Body as well. The Native American Body. The Indigenous Body. The Latin American Body. The Indian Body. The Kurdish Body. The Pakistani Body. The Chinese Body. And so many other bodies.

The Human Body is not one. It sure feels that it should be by now. Maybe that in itself is an illusion. But maybe it’s an illusion worth preserving because I don’t know what sort of world we’d be living in if it stays an illusion.

Some bodies are global, but most bodies are local, regional, ‘ethnic’.

My thoughts are with all the victims of today’s horrific attacks, and my thoughts are with all those who will suffer serious discrimination as a result of the actions of a few mass murderers and the failure of humanity’s imagination to see itself as a unified entity.

My only hope is that we can be strong enough to generate the opposite response to what these criminals intended. I want to be optimistic enough to say that we’re getting there, wherever ‘there’ might be.

We need to talk about these things. We need to talk about Race. We just have to.

183 thoughts on “Beirut, Paris

    1. Have been aware of this reality for an awfully long time. With others I would choose to change it, the loss of lives in Beirut being every bit as important to me as those in Paris. The power mongers here are the media, those who trot out their xenophobic prattle through TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, and they are pretty much untouchable. Born in Britain, of British nationality, I know that I am a citizen of the world. It hurts, because there is so much that is so very wrong out there and there is so little I can do to change it. I am, however, trying.

      1. I’m french, and I just want you to know that lots of people around me thought of lebanese people killed in the attacks last week. My english is not good enough to express exactly what I’m thinking about the international reactions towards France, and the lack of reaction towards Lebanon. Hope that one day human beings will be more important than economical and political interests, hope one day each life will be as important as another.
        I’m thinking of every family touched by madness of these sick people.

  1. I realised this a long time ago. I don’t know how often I have heard British news reports that prioritise one British life lost over hundreds of ‘others’: headlines like ‘hundreds of people are feared dead in a landslide, no Britons were involved’.

    The heart breaking photos of Aylan Kurdi moved many British people to action, but still refugees are turned away from Britain. Imagine if that had been a British child! The outcome would be very different!

    Our empathy with our fellow human beings is dulled by the sickness of Nationality. It seems that the less someone is ‘like us’, the less we care.

    1. It’s the same here in America. No Americans involved. People want to know this. People in America, anyway. It’s not that “we”” don’t care about “you”. We do, very much, but first things first, then we move on. My heart breaks for all of you,

  2. when I heard about the Beirut suicide bombs I felt the same sadness as every time I am confronted to pictures from Syria, or news on killings in Kabul, in Bagdad, by Boko Haram, by US drones, or the rage on the people of Gaza … am I such an exception? I can imagine the pain of Karachi bombing victims being exactly as huge as the pain of 9/11 or Paris victims. for me, violence has no race. and if the Paris assault touches me especially, it is just because I have been in Paris, but not in so many other places. since I saw the dead bodies of victims of the Salvadorian death squads hanging in the cliffs of the Pacific shore near La Libertad, 30 years ago, to me a human body is a human body. violence produces no martyrs. only poor, senseless, innocent victims. (a martyr would be one who at full conscience decides to make a sacrifice of his life). … yes, we have to talk. we are learning right now how many Muslims say NotInMyName. we are learning that not religion is guilty for crimes, but criminals who take advantage of religious convictions. we must learn to prevent religion from being permeable to violent ideologies. and we must all learn to talk at same eye level. I promise you, many people in the West are available for this. “we, the people” are not identic with our so called leaders who are corrupted by power and decide over life and death from their desktops. German people talk to the refugees. still the German border is kept open. take this as an example that not all the world sees the other local bodies as inferior

  3. That was my very first thought when I heard about Beirut – by pure chance. People were changing their profile photos on Facebook to show their sympathies for the victims in Paris, everyone talking about how their heart was broken…. Did no one’s heart break for the people killed in Beirut? Why was one event a big deal in our media and the other wasn’t? It worries me that we don’t seem to care equally about every life lost.
    Sending you love from Germany.

  4. I understand what you are saying, and I see how you might feel like that. As someone who lives in Australia, I do not know Beirut, I didn’t even know there was an attack there. I know Paris, I have been there, I have friends from there and know people who live there. I love Paris. It doesn’t mean I don’t like Beirut. I just don’t know it. The world is a big place. If I had to name 3 cities of the world quickly, Paris would be one. I don’t know why?

    I have read a lot in the last couple of days from people saying their country doesn’t matter, people don’t care about Iraq, the Congo, Lebanon etc. I don’t think that’s true. I know people do care, of course people care. I truely feel that everyone can not possibly know everything about every country. I can’t even think about the Congo as it’s too upsetting. My body dying might not matter to Lebanon, but it will matter to my friends and family here, when the end comes that’s all I want. My family and friends who know me should care.

    I have seen so much on Facebook about ‘selective humanity’ the last few days. I see it like this…if my friend dies in a car crash, and I cry and go to their funeral, am I then disrespecting all the people who have died in a car crash where I didnt go to their funeral? Do I not care they died? Of course not.

    I have read I should change my news source if i didn’t know about Beirut. To be honest, I try to stay away from the news. It makes me depressed, it causes anxiety. I can’t take on all the grief, of all the people, in all the world because it hurts too much, and in return I don’t expect the world to take on my grief. We need to break it down and deal with what we can…share it out. I can’t stay away from the Paris news, because it’s everywhere. Why? I don’t know. Less language barriers? More reporters in France? I have no idea. I don’t think it’s because no one cares for your country.

    When I hear about violence in the Middle East and in Africa I do care, believe me when I say this. As I get older and now have children of my own I care even more. I learnt a long, long time ago that worry changes nothing, it just makes you miserable. You can care too much, where it hurts, and you can’t deal with it, and it’s never ending. I can’t even imagine the pain people have to live with. I don’t want to imagine it. The problems in these countries are too large for my mind, so I try and shut it out. Paris is a peaceful country, a country we know and love, it’s a shock and unexpected. We haven’t tried to numb ourselves of their pain yet.

    I shall try to not be so ignorant to your country. I wish I could hear the good though. I think it comes from the good, you hear the good, and like it, remember it, grow to love it.

  5. Cher Monsieur Ayoub, vous avez entièrement raison. On peut penser aussi à l’avion russe qui a été détruit récemment. Il n’y a pas eu non plus tellement d’indignation internationale. Cela nous rappelle que ce sont les médias qui dictent les règles de la compassion, et puisque les médias sont occidentaux, la compassion est occidentale.
    Comme Français la vague de sympathie jamais vue jusqu’alors envers Paris me touche, mais me gêne un peu aussi. Le nombre de morts vendredi soir à Paris n’est jamais que le nombre quotidien de morts en Syrie depuis 4 ans, et celui en Irak depuis 12 ans s’en approche également. On peut penser aussi à la Palestine, à la Corée du Nord, à de nombreux pays d’Afrique.
    Nous devons surtout trouver des solutions pour fonder une société plus juste, à l’échelle mondiale. Tous les gens de bonne volonté sont bienvenus. En tout cas, en mon nom (car je ne peux parler au nom du peuple français, même si je sais que beaucoup ici partagent mon avis), je vous envoie mes messages de condoléances pour l’attentat de la semaine dernière, et de fraternité.
    A. Lecerf

  6. I’m french, from Paris. I cry for my country but I cry for all attacks around the world. For me, today is not only a national day of mourning but an INTERNATIONAL day of mourning. The humanity lose a lot all the day all around the world, we should never forget it.

  7. Un Message aux noms des Français nous trouvons ça triste également sachant que nos médias ( qui manipulent ) ne nous ont pas informer des attentats du 12 Novembre .

    En tout cas de nombreux Français vous soutiennent sachez le , on pense à vous même si vous croyez le contraire pour ce qui est du bouton facebook OUI c’est une injustice !!!

    On pense a vous !!! Prayforbeyrouth ❤ ❤

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