I was kind of shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting in Virginia Tech that has dominated western media in the past 48 hours, especially the Internet. I tend to pay close attention to how such incidents unravel in the media and the public eye. The number 30 was splashed across home pages of the BBC and CNN for quite some time and it’s just one of those things where one cannot help but take a step back and realize how important those 30 lives were. I mean for instance 30 is the new 20 in Iraq; daily bombings and slaughters inspire at least that much.
One could easily cast this aside as another orientalist view of the world: that their lives are worth more than our lives. I mean I’m sure it plays a role, after all, a day after the shooting the “30 dead” headline was replaced with “South Korean gunman”, as if origin mattered; as if this was the opportunity the US was waiting for all along to invade North Korea (because their names sound suspiciously similar). But maybe there’s more to it.
In between hoping the gunman isn’t Arab, there is a common denominator to consider.
There’s something to be said about the storm that breaks the quiet; when tranquility is disturbed and replaced with chaos, which of course inspires fear, confusion and anger.
When you’re used to chaos, more of it is simply nothing new. One becomes accustomed to death. If I turned on the TV to hear that there were no new deaths in Occupied Palestine or Iraq or Darfur, then I would rush to the window to make sure the apocalypse wasn’t being ushered in with falling meteors from the sky.
You get used to certain things.
But then Virginia isn’t Palestine.
Virginia isn’t Iraq.
And yes, an American isn’t a Palestinian, isn’t an Iraqi. If anything, the media makes sure to remind us of that time and time again.
The irony of this I suppose is that if anyone on the face of the Earth right now knows what it means to have innocent life taken from them; to know what it feels to have that tranquility disturbed, if anyone right now knows that feeling, those people are in Iraq and Palestine.
The only difference is hope.
The US seems to have plenty of it. There is always that light at the end of the tunnel; the recovery, the moving on, the getting over the initial shock, the coming to terms with it, coming to grips with it.
Here in the Middle East, hope is as scarce as water these days (i.e. roughly half a century to be more accurate). There is no getting over the shock; there’s just not enough time to recover from loss before another comes along to replace it. There are no recovery stories here. No learning-how-to-move-on tales to be told. Yesterday is today; today is tomorrow.
Hope doesn’t live here anymore.
Maybe there should be a cultural exchange: we could teach Americans a thing or two about how to deal with the shock of loss and maybe they could teach us a thing or two about hope.
Being that they control the world supply of hope: maybe they would be kind enough to just lend us some.
Just for the weekend.