Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council says we have to pray for Belgium after the horrible bombings in Brussels and says, of course, that we “stand with Brussels.” It’s just a short little piece for BarbWire that is nothing but tired cliches and platitudes.
Night fell on Brussels, Belgium hours ago, completing a darkness that had overtaken the city when terrorists rocked the small country with a series of deadly attacks. In the wreckage of the airport terminal and underground subway, the world is faced with yet another reminder that the evil of ISIS is not contained to the Middle East — but living and breathing among us.
While Paris’s neighbors try to cope with the nightmarish scene, we stand with Belgium and the many grieving families whose senseless losses continue to send shockwaves through the global community.
*yawn* But here’s what I’ve noticed. The bombings in Brussels prompted this massive outpouring of support and dominated the media in this country. But only three days earlier a similar attack hit Istanbul, Turkey, and this has been a regular occurrence. Bombings in Istanbul and Turkey have killed about 200 people over the last few months. But you never hear “we stand with Turkey” or “we must pray for Turkey.” The media reports on it quickly and moves on. Presidential candidates are not asked about how they plan to address the violence there.
The same thing happened just before the Paris bombings, when Beirut and Nigeria were hit with massive attacks at least as deadly as the one in France. But while there was some limited media coverage of those bombings, it wasn’t even in the same order of magnitude as the coverage of the Paris attacks. As someone said on Twitter, everyone in America says “We are all Parisians” and “we are all Belgians” after such attacks, but we are never Nigerians, or Lebanese, or Kenyans.
This is simple tribalism and it is to a large extent innate. We tend to show sympathy and concern for those who are more like us rather than those who are less like us, or as we perceive them to be such. We identify with white Europeans more than we do with Arabs or Africans. But this is a tendency that, as a humanist, I strive to overcome. Because the life of a Belgian or a Frenchman is of no greater value than the life of a Lebanese or Nigerian. People in Beirut do not grieve for the loss of their loved ones any less than people in Paris or Brussels.
But it gets much worse than that, I think. It’s this same concern only for the in-group or tribe that allows us to casually accept our government invading other countries and killing huge masses of appeal with little guilt or even thought given to it. 55,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War, a war with no possible rational justification. At least two million, and possibly as many as three million, Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were killed. How many of us even give that a thought? Our invasion of Iraq killed a couple hundred thousand people and turned about five million people into refugees, and most Americans, even if they opposed the war, showed little concern for them. We debate policies that lead to the murder of millions of people as if it was some abstract idea.
We should identify with them as much as the people in Europe because they are human beings just like us, no different. They feel the same pain we feel. This, to me, is the very essence of humanism. We should choose humanism over tribalism every time.