On Friday, November 13, great tragedy befell France — a tragedy caused by man, a tragedy that instantaneously shook the entire world as it happened.
If the same horror would have occurred 20 years ago, most citizens on this earth would have continued about with their Friday night, unaware of the terror plaguing the “City of Light.” Because of social media networks, the news of the attacks on France spread quickly.
Without agenda, people of all ages shared links to the horrific breaking news, posted heartfelt statuses and changed their profile pictures as a means of showing support and solidarity.
Because as conscientious humans, sympathy and love are natural reactions in the face of such devastation.
When I was in the eighth grade and the planes struck the Twin Towers, my homeroom teacher handed out an American flag pin to each student in my class. We all wore them proudly — some for a longer period of time than others, of course. I remember seeing those pins across campus and feeling proud. I remember seeing similar pins in public spaces such as the mall or the movies and feeling strong.
But if someone had told me that far, far away, in a different country, there was somebody wearing an American flag pin — somebody who had never been to America, somebody who had no connection to the September 11 attacks, somebody who simply sympathized — would I have been offended? Would I have thought, “How dare you? You aren’t even affected by this! What nerve! You could be doing so much more!” No.
I would have been moved, possibly to tears, to think that somebody so far away recognized the tragedy and supported us.
I would have felt warmth in knowing that despite all the hate in this world, there is also love.
But come Saturday morning, rather than seeing continued love and support, I saw hateful words and name-calling. People who had changed their profile picture to show their support for France were being attacked — being labeled as “drones” and “sheep,” suggesting they were merely “jumping on the bandwagon” and not doing anything useful.
Sure, not all victims of the attacks would be moved to see the colors of their flag all over their newsfeed, but if it brought a smile to even just a few of their faces, then what harm has been done?
There is harm, however, in verbally attacking someone, in using words such as “dumb” and “ignorant” to describe those who are just trying to show support or help in the only way they know how.
I understand and support the intent of these comments — wanting to motivate people to help in a more active sense is a beautiful thing — but if you choose to insult someone in order to convey your opinion, that good intent will get lost in translation as the other party becomes defensive. Furthermore, this negative rhetoric instigates hate and is the very root to the very terrorism we are now up against.
So rather than post hurtful memes and statuses, educate and inform your friends.
Let it be known, however, that if I learned anything during my eight years as a very active member of Amnesty International, it is that no matter how big or small the gesture, any act of kindness or support is enough to inspire a movement.
This isn’t a note on politics or political opinion. I am not telling you what to believe or how to feel. We all want to do the right thing, we just have different views on how to achieve it.
Therefore I am simply asking — rather, I am begging — that we forgo the hateful words and cruel images.
There is no use in tearing someone down in order to prove a point, only backlash. Because it is only once we reach a place of mutual respect and understanding that we can we ever know peace.