The recent events in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad signal the continued atrocities committed by violent extremists across the world. Their impact is evident in how much destruction has been caused, as well as the way in which it has affected people across the globe.

People residing in Western nations, among other parts of the world, were quick to show an outpouring of support to the country and people of France. In the cases of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, this support has been longstanding throughout recent history, due to being allies and having shared democratic and liberal values.

An enormous factor in how the events of that week got the attention of those outside of the immediate destruction is the media. Coverage is dependent on a degree of demand, and the viewers of any given news outlet inform that demand.

In the wake of these events, the variance in coverage meant that some saw a lack of attention paid to non-French news. They saw this focus on Paris as being exclusionary of other tragedies occurring in the world at that time.

The attempt to regulate the emotions, particularly expressions of grieving or sadness by those concerned that one location of destruction was being overshadowed by another, was well-meaning but poorly carried out. There are no tiers to tears: trying to establish which places deserve more sad attention does a disservice to whatever closeness a person feels to a place.

Furthermore, for better or worse, most Western nations have a deeper connection to France, based on shared history, culture and values. Trying to relate the experiences of a different part of the world can be a challenge, especially when others closer in proximity are easier to relate to.

Other variables contributing to the frustration of the attacks and misery were measures used, such as Facebook’s profile picture change feature, that allowed users to overlay an image of the French flag on their most prominent account picture. Another Facebook feature enabled those in and around Paris to establish that they were safe for their friends and family across the world. While both these features were well-intentioned, their singular application to Paris and not other disasters caused acrimony among some.

In the past, this safety check feature had only been applied in situations of natural disasters, as opposed to events brought on by terrorism. This means that the discretion of Facebook’s own team establishes what constitutes a safety check-worthy disaster, tossing in subjective and personal judgment into the mix.

The sad reality of these events is that their occurrence is far from infrequent.  That is not to say that the leaders of nations all over the world should not work to fight against terrorism and injustice. However, focusing on any one event is doing a disservice to the breadth of how terrorism affects us as a global community, but also to how deeply it can stir people.

Perhaps the scariest reality is how the world’s travel, commerce and interconnectedness are influenced, as we’ve seen with hyperbolic and xenophobic sentiments, refugee policies and the treatment of Muslims across Western liberalized countries. This way of trying to police how people feel comes to light again, where rationality and the values espoused by democratic and immigrant-filled societies such as the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have been poisoned by the fear of outsiders who could be threats.

At the end of the day, no one can deny how anyone feels about any issue, as it is a subjective and personal experience. In coming together to fight not just a physical or military battle against forces such as ISIL, more than security is needed. A deep empathy and emotional resilience will be just as powerful and may be one of the few things that can keep us moving forward.

(Written by Ben Turner, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Nov. 26, 2015)

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