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Thursday, May 28, 2015

On ISIS, Paper Cranes, and the Global Community

Here's me with my grandparents, ready to head to an elementary school concert.  I'm guessing that I'm 11 years old because I appear to be post-perm (that was age 8), but pre-babybangs (that was age 12).   Clearly, I'm also pre-braces (age 13).  It's a great photo; you're welcome, Internet.

Think back -- what were you doing at age 11?  I was playing outside, reading books, hanging out with my friends, and writing cheesy poems.  So, not much has changed, except at least now I know my poems are cheesy, while at that time I thought they were fine literature.  ("A fallen log has many uses/ A bridge or a balance beam...")

Think about your family and friends.  What are your neighbors, nieces and nephews, cousins, and children doing at age 11?  What sports do they play?  What technology are they into?

...Are any of them getting sold into slavery?

Because if they are elementary age children, and especially if they are minorities (Christian?  Yeah, that's me...), and especially if they are girls, they are not that different than the children now being kidnapped and sold by ISIS.

Here's a screenshot from a Google search I just did on "ISIS+children+slavery."  Many of these sources are reputable, and recent.  This is actually happening.

This is actually happening.

Last week I read an article from blogger Ann Voskamp, who visited with Yezidi women who had been displaced from their homes and terrorized by ISIS.  Here's a little bit for you to read:

But we’re not about to cover up their stories with trite and flimsy distractions, we won’t act like what’s happening with ISIS isn’t the story of our times, isn’t the story that defies geography, isn’t the story that threatens the cradle of civilization. 
How do you just sit on the floor of a shipping container and just let these women carry this kind of terror alone — how do you turn away and go back to your neat little life of wheaties and news reels and how does the church not stand up and howl?

That's the question I'm aiming to answer in this post: "How does the church not stand up and howl?" How does anyone not stand up and howl?

Most of us are good at rallying around our communities when times are tough.  I recently went to the 9/11 memorial in the church across from Ground Zero.  There were posters, signs, and notes from around the country that had been sent to encourage the city.  There were even thousands of paper cranes that had been sent from schoolchildren in Asia.  (Are Yezidi families getting paper cranes?)

I remember being so proud of my community when the whole town turned out to sand-bag during the flood of 2008. (Would your whole town turn out for an anti-ISIS march?)

Just today, Amber Alerts called us to be vigilant so that we can intervene in a child abduction case.  We want to help each other; we want to keep children from danger; we want to support those in pain.  So why don't we seem to care much about the Middle East?

I think the answer is that we don't consider "them" a part of "us."  We don't see these men, women, and children as part of our community.  So we can't make ourselves care.

And if we don't care, we don't pray.  We don't advocate.  We don't give.  We don't go.  We don't act.

(I include myself in this.)

What do you think?  How can we change?


Linda said...

Ignoring these issues always reminds me of the premise of the book "Night" by Elie Weisel. He and his family were victims of the holocaust. For a long time, they survived with the belief that when the world "knew" what was happening, help would be coming. The world knew ..... but

Unknown said...

Decreased activism is a direct cause of the increase in technology, social media availability, and an overall degradation in physical interaction between people in the world. Thanks to the advent and advancement of social media, things like self-esteem, self-worth, and what were once considered reputable actions have been boiled down to taking the perfectly filtered photo of your pumpkin spice latte and getting more "likes" than someone else did. Because we all know, the less likes you have on Facebook, the more worthless you are. In my opinion, the more likes you are concerned about getting Facebook, the more worthless you are. There is also a psychological phenomenon known as "bystander effect", which I feel has grown exponentially thanks to our ever-increasing interconnected world. The theory behind the bystander effect is the more people who are witnesses to a victim in an event, the less likely each witness is to try and get help for the situation. Take into account the Civil Rights movement. Back when stories were breaking on the news about social inequality and the horrific things that were happening to minorities, it took physical contact from one person to another to assemble people. Then those assembled people were required to take physical actions like sit-ins, rallies, and the million man march to make changes happen. Now-a-days sit-ins, rallies, and things like the million man march have been replaced by Facebook pages, Memes, and trending hashtags. The last time I checked #savethewhales doesn't save the whales no matter how many people like, share, tweet, etc. You know what does save the whales? Physically showing up to where atrocities are taking place or physically showing up to law-makers offices so things will change. Obviously whales are only one example, but you get the gist. Furthermore on the "bystander effect" phenomenon, we are now more of a "global community" and a "global conscience" than ever before. You would think this would have an effect on our ability to promptly resolve issues and take action to improve situations, however, it's had the exact opposite effect. Now when someone sees a horrible event has taken place, they likely saw it on Twitter or Facebook. Because of this, there is now a knee-jerk reaction to think, "Well it's on social media, so I'm sure someone is taking care of it since millions of people know about it. But I'll do my part and re-tweet or re-post in case some of my friends don't know about it." The irony is, this is exactly what everyone else is thinking. So in the end, zero action is taken but everyone thinks they did their part by sharing the story. I feel the best way we can change is to set down our phones, step away from our computers, open up our front door, and step into the "real world" where real problems are taking place and where real solutions can be found.

Alison said...

Hi Dan. Thanks for the comment. It's interesting to think that the increased interconnectedness of our world could actually DECREASE our care and assistance for other people, but your reasoning makes sense. Do you remember the "Kony 2012" story? A nonprofit called Invisible Children decided to raise awareness of a particularly bad war criminal named Joseph Kony and asked people to re-post a video about him, as well as posting the phrase "Kony 2012" on posters and social media. The idea was that if thousands of people were invested in going after this guy, they would actually catch him. The story did spread like crazy... 100 million people watched the video. But to my knowledge no one has captured him. The Wikipedia article about this has a quote about "slacktivism" -- which is when people get to feel like they contributed to some good cause without actually doing something.

As you said, Dan, change happens mostly through person-to-person contact and actions bigger than computer clicks. "Raising awareness" is good, but if YOU are already aware, and you want to help, your response should include both raising awareness and DOING SOMETHING. (A good question here would be, Alison -- what are you actually DOING about this issue you have written about?)

My roommate has a saying about Christian ministry that also applies to things like activism and public service. She says that if you're not being inconvenienced, you're probably not doing ministry. So if I'm not being inconvenienced in some way by my own response, I probably don't actually care about ISIS and its victims.

Alison said...

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (-Edmund Burke). Thanks for the comment, Linda.

Unknown said...

I very much remember Kony 2012. It's unfortunate that this day-in-age, "slactivism" (which might be a new favorite word of mine), is our accepted idea of how to make change in this world. I also agree about the saying with ministry. I feel that saying can be applied to many facets of life.

I remember as I was growing up my mom used to say things like, "What's popular isn't always right and what's right isn't always popular" or "Anything worth having isn't easy and anything easy isn't worth having."

With instant gratification just a click away, we've lost our sense of merit, integrity, and selflessness. If we can't get something immediately, we feel it's a waste of our time. It's like we've adopted the mindset "Anything that's easy IS worth having and anything that isn't easy.....well screw it."

Another problem we face and a reason why slacktivism seems to be ever-more present is due to our role models in life. Not even 50 years ago, people like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, and Jonas Salk were considered rock stars. The gave blood, sweat, tears, and even sacrificed their lives to create a better world. They understood that anything wroth having wouldn't be easy. Now we think role models are Justin Beiber, Caitlyn Jenner, Lebron James, and Nicki really doesn't bum me out to think that's where society has shifted it's interest.

More recently you may have heard of a girl named Malala Yousafzai. She was the middle eastern girl who was shot in the head by terrorists in her own community for supporting women's education. She recovered from that injury and continued to bravely fight for women's rights. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. It's unfortunate that the vast majority of people in this world would need to google her name to even begin to know why she has any significance in today's world. However, I mention Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and everyone on the face of this planet could tell me what he's been up to for the last 5 years with extreme detail.

If you look at both Facebook profiles of Malala and Caitlyn, you'll see my point. On one hand you have Malala, who fought for women's rights in a part of the world where woman have zero rights, she was shot in the head for this, she recovered, continued to fight for women's rights while still preaching peace and forgiveness to the terrorists who shot her, and at the age of 17. How many facebook followers? 167,000.

Now we have Bruce Jenner. An Olympic athlete, who was very successful in athletics, raised a family of slightly crazy and narcissistic people, had some gender identity issues, and through fame/fortune, paid a crazy amount of money for plastic surgery to feel more like herself. Facebook followers 891,000.

Now I'm not saying that Caitlyn didn't have her own trials and tribulations to go through and that she can't serve as an inspiration for others. However, society seems to forget that people like Malala are selflessly doing good for the world even if it means they die. Meanwhile people like Caitlyn don't like the way they look or feel so they pay outrageous amounts of money that could be used for.........well I don't know....supporting women's rights in the middle east, to selfishly change their outward appearance so it matches how they feel on the inside. In the end Malala does what she does for others. Caitlyn did what she did for herself. Selfishness and instant gratification are rewarded in today's society, whereas hard work and selfless acts are quickly forgotten.