In the wake of November 13th terrorist attacks on in Paris, France, numerous AUCP alumni expressed their solidarity with their adoptive country via social media. Their intimate connection with France and understanding of French language & culture made the attacks all the more jarring. Linfield College student Rachael Conway studied in Aix-en-Provence just this past Spring 2015. She published the following insightful reaction on Facebook, and we have republished it with her permission.
« Tonight I have a lot on my mind. My heart is so heavy after the attacks in Paris, and I’ve already seen things in reaction to these events that have alarmed me.
I want to start by saying that I was deeply affected by the attacks in France, a country I just spent four months living in, learning their customs, their language, and their way of life, and which so graciously welcomed me. I arrived on the day of the protests following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January, and got to know my host mother when she held my hand in the crowd of 30,000 chanting the Marseillaise that day so I would not get lost. I feel very invested in the lives of the French people.
However, many have expressed their outrage at the lack of media coverage for the suicide bombing that just took place in Beirut, or of any of the other horrific acts of terrorism that have been taking place in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere this month and year. I agree.
The truth is that we are privileged here in the United States. Since 9/11/2001, we’ve generally been able to view the unfolding of radical Islam through a very, very long telescope, and by the time the news reaches us, it’s been skewed in so many ways that it can hardly be called fact. Additionally, being removed from the danger means that we can pull away the telescope whenever we want. When the pain becomes too intense, we can simply remove our eyes from the source, and that is a privilege that so many others do not have at this time.
The Paris attacks were terrifying because Paris is a name we all know, a word that has come out of all of our mouths. Paris sounds like vacation, like cheese and wine, like amour.
Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran – for the most part, for the average US citizen, these names do not sound like « us. » They sound like war, and death, and terrorism. « 40 killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut » – our eyes glaze over a headline like this, and though it may invoke a flicker of something in us (pity? disgust? remorse?) this something does not last, because we do not change our profile pictures to the flag of Lebanon or pray for Beirut…We are desensitized to these pairings: bombs and the Middle East, death and Iraq, refugees and Syria. But Terror in Paris? Mass death in the City of Light? The fire of ISIS has moved out of lands with cities and prime ministers whose names we cannot pronounce.
Now, more than ever, I believe it is crucial that we open our eyes and hearts to the events happening in those parts of the world that do not sound like us. Resist the urge to look away. Islam is a religion of peace, and ISIS is a terrorist branch of Al Qaeda that kills people and incites terror in the name of Islam, but that has nothing to do with true Islam. ISIS recruiters prey on Muslims, usually targeting young men who have been ostracized in some way by the society they live in. We must fight xenophobia and Islamophobia. We cannot add to the fire of these extremists’ arguments and prove them right by building a wall between us and our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is now more than ever that we have to stand together to fight Terror as an ideology. Our world cannot afford to go into another world war.
Change begins when we change the hearts and minds of the people. Love will conquer terror. My heart goes out to all those who have been victims of terrorism.
Merci Rachael, for this lovely message.