We’re Really Not That Different. . .

Last Sunday morning, across the world, many were out shopping on a regular day during the holidays. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge explosion took 250 of their lives.

250 lives taken in a moment.

The location was Baghdad, the holiday Ramadan, and the explosion was claimed by ISIS.

The first report was 150 lives, and I was dismayed. Dismayed at the huge loss of life, the latest loss in what has become a string of losses. Dismayed that it wasn’t all over Facebook. Dismayed that it was buried at the bottom of the NPR newsfeed by Monday morning.

It wasn’t that way with Paris. The horrific Paris attack was all over Facebook, people changed their profile pics to the French flag, and we all Prayed for Paris. It led my NPR newsfeed. Yet, the perpetrator of the crime was the same organization, and the original reported number of deaths about the same as well.

Why don’t we care about Baghdad? (or Istanbul for that matter?)

Is it because they should be used to this? I mean, we hear about deaths from violence in Baghdad much more frequently than deaths from violence in Paris.

Is it because we’ve visited Paris (or want to) but will never visit Baghdad? Certainly we sent troops over there, but maybe we assume people have joined the refugee wave to Europe, or should be leaving that place now.

Is it because we think their lives matter less? Certainly, no one would admit to this theoretically, but doesn’t our inattention make it appear so?

No doubt there is a mix of complex reasons for our lack of reaction.

But I think it can be boiled down to one main idea: we think Parisians are like us, and Iraquis aren’t. We identify with westerners more than easterners, post-Christians more than majority Muslims, democratic governments more than dictatorships (or shaky democracies).

If it happened in Paris, it could happen to us, because they’re like us. Thus, we want to support them.

What happens in Baghdad only happens to them, so we’re not sure we care.

We focus on difference rather than similarity. We create an us and a them perhaps subconsciously. And we do this all the time.

We focus on how we're different from others and ignore we're similar. Click To Tweet

Isn’t that the essence of racism, sexism, classism. . .? One group is this, and another that, so we respond accordingly. We do it because we’ve been taught to do it, we do it to make us feel better than them, we do it because different must mean good or bad.

But must it? Must different mean good or bad? Can’t different be just that—different, and neither better nor worse? I wrote about how judging the different may be reflective of The Fall and sin last week

But this week, perhaps we can remember that just because they’re eastern, majority Muslim, and under a dictator/shaky democracy, they’re still not all that different from us. Really.

They are human, live, die, and love. They celebrate holidays and shop, sometimes at strategic times during the day. They travel (Istanbul), laugh and cry, eat and fast. Though the construction may be different, they live in houses and apartments, have families, and follow religious moral codes. They celebrate life and mourn their dead. While these similarities aren’t necessarily a recipe for best friends, is it possible that they are more important than the differences? Is it possible that sharing a common humanity means that we’re brothers and sisters in a real sense? We certainly have more in common with them than animals, plants, or other parts of creation.

We’ve tried to divide the sexes, saying that one’s from Mars, and the other’s from Venus. Truth is, though, we’re both from earth, and our commonalities are greater than our differences. 

Can we say the same for those who were killed in Baghdad (or Istanbul, or Orlando, or Dallas, or Detroit, or Alabama, or Paris)? Can we say that our commonalities are greater than our differences and that a crime against anyone is a crime against us all?

We’re really not that different, if we choose to see the similarities.

We’re really not that different, if we choose to see the similarities. Click To Tweet
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2 comments on “We’re Really Not That Different. . .Add yours →

  1. While at Nyack College 1971 a classmate of mine Titus Tienu from Africa taught me the following: “we are all the same only different, we are all different only the same” a treasure from my Nyack days 45 years ago but an ageless truth from the “ancient of days”

  2. Thank you for writing this! This is something I’ve been struggling with. I was overwhelmed by the lack of response but they need prayer and support too. I’m trying to embrace my Arab identity but it can be challenging when I see this unspoken bias towards the East. Thanks again for shedding light of this!

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