Monday, July 25, 2011

Lessons from Norway/ Lessons from America

By now, everyone has heard about the horrific tragedies in Norway. From the moment the breaking news posted, my heart broke and I wept for those hurt and killed in this senseless violence. Coupling the shock with the fact that I have someone dear to my heart in Norway (who I now know to be safe, by the way), the events of that day rocked me to the core.

I also learned an awful lot about some colleagues and friends in the process.

First, there was the appalling jump to conclusion that the perpetrators had to be Muslim, probably Al-Qaeda. The media was the first on this bandwagon, bringing up the cartoon that had been published several years ago that elicited violent protest from Al-Qaeda. Then, the people in my real-life world jumped on that tact, arguing that the "damn Muslims" are "always out to kill people", all Muslims "should be watched closely" or "we'll have another September 11, 2001".

Then it turned out that it *gasp* wasn't a Muslim at all. He didn't have any of the characteristics of what the majority thinks a terrorist looks like. In fact, with his blonde hair, chiseled chin, and blue eyes (and Christian beliefs), he looked more likely to have stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad than a terrorist cell.

Suddenly, all of the arguing about "those Muslims" disappeared. And, I noticed a conspicuous lack of accusations against fundamentalists as a collective. It felt a bit hypocritical to me, this tendency to blame the actions of one Muslim on EVERY Muslim, and that the actions of one Christian only reflect on that one Christian. I commented so on a friend's social network page. And was completely lambasted by the followers. Hardcore.

(P.S. For the record, I'm not here to argue whether or not he was a "real Christian". He identified himself as such, so that's what I'm basing my debate on.)

Look, I'm not honestly suggesting that we start looking at everyone who wears crosses with scrutiny, I'm not suggesting the Christians need to be more strongly vetted before they're allowed on airplanes or in public spaces etc. Profiling and blaming based solely on religious affiliation is wrong and inexcusable. I'm saying there are much more effective methods for judging whether the guy next door is going to bomb the coliseum than the religious symbol that hangs around their neck.

But the suggestion that Christians could possibly be as violent as a Muslim struck a knee-jerk reaction, and poorly articulated accusations. And every single one of the critical comments I received actually proved my point moreso than anything I could say.

Let's face it; Al-Qaeda is a form of extreme fundamentalist Islam. Go to your neighborhood mosque and ask, you'll find out. The suspect in Norway holds extremely fundamentalist Christian views. I think we can all agree that taking ANY religion to fundamentalist, violent extremes is not a good thing, right?

The second lesson I learned this week had to do with the death of Amy Winehouse. Look, I adored her sultry voice, and pondered how many cans of hairspray it took to keep that beehive up. She was an artist, and she had talent. But she also had demons, and was anyone really shocked at the news that she'd been found deceased?

Nonetheless, it flooded the news. The major networks continued to put the story of her death at the top of the hour, above the looming debt crisis, and above the rising death toll in Norway. My social network feeds, which had been nearly silent on Norway flooded with tweets about Amy Winehouse.

Ah, America. Where the death of a celebrity battling addiction overshadows financial ruin and the deaths of dozens of youth at a summer camp. Was anyone else absolutely shocked by this level of coverage, or was it simply just business as usual?


  1. Business as usual. Here in the US it seems like we really don't give a damn about the rest of the world until it affects us. For example, losing a celebrity we all loved to judge for her lifestyle choices. I have traveled abroad quite regularly and I can tell you, I learn more about the news of the world and a more even-handed reporting of US news when I am at my mom's house in the Netherlands. US media is a joke.

  2. Hannah - I can only imagine the hell that would have been raised if a gunman had wandered into a US summer camp and opened fire, and the level of repercussions...but you're right, we really don't care unless it's effecting us on a personal level. Sad. :-( I try to consciously choose where I get my news sources, but it's hard to wade through the clutter of American media and get to the good details.


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