The who-suffers-the-most-is-allowed-to-grieve game

Not so funny, guise

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This nation has suffered too many tragedies this past year. The most recent have been the Boston Marathon bombing and the tornado that tore apart Oklahoma City — both have left the cities in shambles. A day that began as normal ultimately led to lives changed forever as the day ended in the trenches of the deepest despair.

After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, a movement for solidarity began with a group of male Syrians sending their condolences to victims of the bombing. A photograph of this group of Syrians shows them holding up a banner that reads “Boston Bombings represent a sorrowful scene of what happens everyday in Syria. Do accept our condolences.”

Even in the midst of this national tragedy, some good still comes about. The Boston Marathon bombing was used to raise awareness of injustices occurring elsewhere. Those who were once unaware of the civil war in Syria became enlightened through this image that has gone viral. Although the image only served to inform others of the fact that there is a civil war occurring, there is a hope that remains that members of society will take it upon themselves to educate themselves about the details of the war. Through national tragedies the American media focuses on, international hardships are brought into view — just as the Occupy movement brought attention to the Egyptian Revolution that was occurring around the same time. Through social media, it has become possible to spread news quickly, allowing for solidarity and the means to educate.

However, as people mourned and continue to mourn the lives lost in the bombing of the Boston Marathon, some shrug it off as an unfortunate circumstance that is an everyday reality for many in other nations. Again, through the workings of social media, some people have turned this opportunity to educate others about international atrocities into a game of comparisons. A popular tweet that has been circulating is “Three die in Boston, the world cries. Thousands die in Syria, the world is silent. Shame on all of you.” There exists this desire to minimize the magnitude of the bombing because more people die more frequently elsewhere. Another fellow tweeter posted, “Just remember people of Boston & America, this just happened once. It’s everyday life for Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Pakistan and many more.”

Eventually, it all turns into a who-suffers-the-most-is-allowed-to grieve game. Now, that is the real tragedy.

A sense of unity diminishes when people do not give others the opportunity to mourn for loved ones. The purpose of the movement by the Syrians is to call for love and unity; it is not meant to invalidate anyone’s suffering but rather simply to raise awareness. Unfortunately, sympathy tends to isolate people as it is doled out by those who believe the recipients are deserving. While the resulting sensitivity toward tragedy was in direct result of the events in Boston, if there was an unnecessary need felt by individuals to choose between feeling sorrow toward the Bostonians or Syrians, the anguish felt in Boston was pushed aside in a respectful gesture to the Syrians.

 Terrible catastrophes occur every day — whether it be natural disasters or afflictions created by man. A greater evil that occurs elsewhere in the world more frequently should not diminish the magnitude of any calamity going on within this nation.

Social media has garnered the power to create acts of love in which people from all over the world have the opportunity to connect with one another. Undoubtedly so, freedom of speech is a wonderful right that makes individuals feel safe and encouraged to engage in discussion — even in the most sensitive of times. Therefore, people should feel safe to send out tweets such as, ‘Why are you praying for boston and not syria nor palestine? you guys only want to ‘pray’ when its convenient.” These public thoughts allow for discussion concerning injustice occurring abroad and the general media’s obsession concerning the West.

However, there is greater potential to cause unnecessary distress, especially when unthinking perspectives of individuals have an ability to create a negative impact. While it is important to address these concerns, it is necessary to be cautious not to implicate the individual worth of lives as part of the problem. There is always an appropriate and sensitive manner in which problems can be touched on so that tragedies are not thrown in the midst of a comparison game.

Whether one was lost to a natural disaster that occurred in any small town or a bombing of the greatest magnitude, the grief felt by family and friends is insurmountable. There is no reason to add to this grief by diminishing the reality of a given situation. Ultimately, whether the tragedy occurs at home or abroad and in whatever frequency, every life is valuable.

Image Source: thebudman623 via Creative Commons

Contact Monica Mikhail at [email protected].