Sulaimaniya, Iraq. Photo credit Kandy M. Christensen taken with Ilford camera on Ilford film.

Chose Compassion and Facts over Profiling and Condemnation

I was shocked and saddened to hear about the bombings in Boston. I am sure that many more tales of courage and a city that opens up its hearts and homes will continue to emerge. Those are the stories that give me hope and make me see that there is compassion and empathy in this world. Yet, within moments of the bombings there was a flurry of tweets and facebook posts and newscasts that erroneously reported information, some of it quite damning. We live in the information age and expect knowledge immediately. Except, it takes time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and in that vacuum speculation grows.

After the blast bystanders tackled a Saudi Arabian man because he ran from the explosion. He was taken into custody, however, as of this morning there are no suspects. I'd like to point out that he ran from the explosion. I'd do the same and yet, he was the one tackled to the ground. 

Just because a person is from the Middle East does not mean that they are a terrorist. In fact, many of the 'terrorist' activities or threats in the United States often come from U.S. citizens. Islamic extremists do exist, but many Muslims deplore their activities and fight against them, regardless of the dangers. While my heart goes out to the families and victims in Boston, just yesterday 55 people were killed in Iraq. Drone attacks kill civilians almost every single day in Afghanistan, but there are no reports in Western media decrying the killing of innocent people. In fact, there are no reports at all. People in Syria are combating tyranny in their quest for democracy. UN agencies have just issued an appeal to stop the "cruelty and carnage" in Syria. 

I worked in Iraq and met people who are proud to be Iraqi's and who work tirelessly to rebuild their country, even when it puts their life at risk. I met men in Mosul who's work put their lives in peril to rid their area of the city of Al Qaeda even as government officials were bribed to turn a blind eye to Al Qaeda activities. A friend of mine, who believes passionately in human rights, told me that when he travels he writes his father's name and phone number in black ink on his chest so they know who to call when they find his body. Namis, a dear man who opened up his home to me, fled Baghdad, and left his family home, because he was working as a translator for the Americans. I met women who were strong in their conviction and belief in women's rights who put their lives on the line daily to fight the beliefs of few, so that women could enjoy the status they held before Saddam's regime. 

I wish you could meet these awe inspiring people. They go about their lives, even as bombs explode around them daily. They combat the narrow minded beliefs of the few and lay their lives on the line to champion human rights and democracy. They tell their stories of loss and sorrow so that history accurately reflects what happened, especially since no one is listening.

Once again we reel from an attack that we do not understand and I sincerely hope that whoever did this in Boston is brought to justice. I also hope that we have learned from our past mistakes and misjudgments and that we do not unwittingly condemn the wrong person, race, religion or nation. Compassion is a very old word in the English language dating back to 1340 and according to the Oxford English Dictionary it means, "The feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress, of another, and by the desire to relieve it; pity that inclines one to spare or to succour". I have faith in people's compassion for Boston, the man who was tackled to the ground and the people in the Middle East who are fighting for human rights and democracy. I think it is helpful to recognize that we are all on the same page.


Originally published 4/16/13

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