November 14, 2015

Murder in Paris

Deutsch: Paris: Eiffelturm und Marsfeld
Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday was a long, shitty day. I suppose that makes sense, as it was a fitting end to a long, shitty week. By the time I made it home, I was in no mood to do much of anything. I'd had maybe four hours of sleep the previous night and could already tell I'd be lucky to get the same. I figured I'd check Twitter, as it is usually good for getting my mind off of whatever is bugging me for a few moments. There was nothing in my timeline except for news of the attacks in Paris. I'm not sure about the time frame, but I believe they were no more than a few hours old at that time.

I have learned that the initial reports of events like this are almost always wrong and that it is virtually useless to speculate about motives until more time has passed. Not surprisingly, this is what almost everyone was doing anyway. I was not interested in thinking about motive; I was still trying to figure out what had happened.

I have friends traveling in Paris, and my thoughts turned to them. I had seen photos they shared on Facebook a couple days ago, and they were definitely taken in Paris. As I begin to see reports of where the attacks had occurred, I grew more concerned. Some of the locations sounded like places they would likely be. I left Twitter and turned to Facebook. Within a few frantic minutes, I discovered that they had left Paris a day or two before the attacks for the next leg of their trip.

My feelings of relief that they were safe were soon replaced with a sense of guilt and shame. How dare I feel relieved when others had lost friends and family in these senseless attacks! That just wasn't right. I went back to Twitter to learn more about what had happened. The details were spotty and hard to find amidst the focus on Islam. The more I read, the more I felt a mixture of profound sadness and anger. Why does this sort of thing keep happening? What can we do about it?

Much of what I saw on Twitter was encouraging. Many atheists were expressing feelings of sorrow and empathy for the victims and their families; others were indicating that they stand with the French people. Some were calmly responding to the many calls for prayer by explaining that prayer does not help or that more religion is unlikely to be the solution to problems likely caused by religion. Many were sharing information designed to help persons connect with friends and family in Paris, find out if they were safe, etc.

Some of what I saw on Twitter was not particularly encouraging. Some conservatives seemed to be using the tragedy as an excuse to push anti-Muslim bigotry; some liberals seemed to be using the tragedy as an excuse to bash conservatives and whine about "Islamophobia." One prominent serial plagiarist even seemed to be trying to turn the attacks into an indictment of "new atheism." I found this all disappointing but not terribly surprising. This is the sort of garbage one must expect following virtually any tragedy. No, my surprise was saved for the atheist - an atheist I had been following - calling for the "eradication" of Muslims. Not Islam, mind you, but Muslims.

For the record, I do not advocate the eradication of an entire group of people based on their religious beliefs. I will no more support the slaughter of Muslims than I would Christians, Jews, or atheists. To see an atheist publicly calling for this is disgusting.

After unfollowing this jackass, I decided it was time to get away from Twitter for the rest of the night. I was making myself crazy for no good reason, and there was no upside to doing so. But I needed to calm down first. I did what I often do when I need a quick smile or some reassurance that the world is still turning: I visited the #manspreading hashtag. It had been just a few hours after the brutal attacks in Paris, and privileged White women in the U.S. were complaining about how they are "victimized" by how men sit on public transportation. I felt better. Sleep came at last.