On Facebook earlier today, I was faced with a discussion about how to mourn an international incident. It was a discussion that was framed so as to point at people for choosing to change their Facebook photo to that of one with an overlay of the French flag while seemingly ignoring other tragedies that happened over the weekend. It wasn’t meant to make people feel bad for ignoring Beirut or Kenya to name a couple of incidents, but it was made for people to question whether or not there was more reaction to the Parisian crisis because it looked more like us. I disagreed with that sentiment and so it led me here.
I didn’t overlay the French flag on my profile pic as I have done here for this post, but I still feel for the French people. I feel everyone who was affected by the acts of ISIS or any other terror organization over the weekend. I feel for any group of people who are murdered in mass just for being who they are or their religion. I don’t think lack of feelings is why people chose to overlay the French flag on their Facebook profiles. I believe that people wanted a way to express their grief over the terrible acts. I believe that most people on my friends list feel tied to France. I think this is why you see more of the grief demonstrated over the events in Paris.
Most of my friends have been to Paris. They have walked those streets or visited those places. They have met French people who they loved on some level. They fell in love with the City of Lights. They fell in love with the City of Love. They left a part of them in France. I believe this is the main reason you see so much outpouring of warmth toward the French people.
The events that happened all over the world over the weekend were horrific, and I believe that most people recognize that. I also believe that each of us grieves differently. It is our responsibility to deal with our own grief in a productive way. We all know that changing our profile picture does very little, but I’m sure it helps some people to feel the warmth and light from far away. I’m sure that little demonstration of support means a lot to someone because their grief is different from yours. It is important to accept that fact.
I don’t think the conversation my friend was trying to create was invalid though. I know that there are many times in the world that things get whitewashed. I know that the world often loves to point at the person who is different and blame them. So I believe that the discussion is valid, and I hope that it is one we will continue to have among friends and more. I hope that we’ll hold the news accountable for telling us the facts and being journalistic and not sensationalist. I hope that we’ll continue to strive to do better, but I don’t think our friends international grief is wrong. I believe their mourning is directed at something they hold dear, and we have to let them grieve accordingly.
So what is the answer to how to mourn an international event? I believe the answer is there is no one way to mourn. There are 7 stages of grief and we all hit them at different points. We all experience grief differently. You can’t tell someone else what is or isn’t appropriate. You just have to handle your own grief and remember that there are other people out there who feel the same as you do. Grief is hard, but you have to let it happen.