The Manchester bombing two weeks ago. Saturday’s London Bridge terrorist attacks. We have certainly heard about these two gruesome events in great detail since they have happened. They are tragic — in their murder of the innocent, their cold stripping of life, the ruthless way their instigators set out to harm.
All over social media, people are sharing articles bearing pictures of the victims, accompanied by links to various GoFundMe pages in their support. People are praying for them, praying for their funerals, expressing their anguish in torn, heartfelt comments online. In short, people care.
But, two weeks ago, a car bomb went off in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing at least 90 people and injuring over 460 others. “The attack is the deadliest in the Afghan capital since an ISIS suicide bomber killed nearly 100 people at a protest last summer, and one of the largest to hit Kabul since the 2001 intervention. Most of the casualties are expected to be civilians,” reports the Guardian. Pictures of the aftermath show how severe the damage was to the city; we can see huge plumes of smoke, shattered infrastructure, handless people, bloodied faces.
Where is the same outpouring of support for these people? Where is the same recognition that this is a tragedy?
We have a tendency to distance people from their humanity if we do not know them personally. Think about it.
One of the reasons we might feel so strongly about the Manchester bombing is because most of us have probably been to a concert; we feel betrayed when what is supposed to be a safe space — a place young people go to enjoy themselves with friends — can contain as much human carnage as it did after the attack. We are all familiar with the singer, Ariana Grande, one of our country’s most famous celebrities and can feel the pain she feels knowing this happened at one of her shows. Because we are so close to the experience the concert-goers had during the concert, we are better equipped to empathize with the affected people.
As for the attacks in Kabul, most of us have no ties connecting us with the circumstances of the victims. We intuitively think of Afghanistan as far away, as a blur of war zones and oppression. Fox News and the like (i.e. our president) have consistently portrayed Middle Easterners as “the enemy” — and after months and months and months of this, the image can’t help but start to stick. We are “supposed” to associate Afghanistan with war as if casualties and civilian death are the norm or some warranted retribution for bad morality on the part of a few. Or maybe, because we have become so desensitized to violence thanks to war movies and gory video games, we see this violence as an example of life happening normally. After a while, numbers can become just that — numbers. Statistics. When it comes to human rights violations in the Middle East, we seem to be an indifferent public.
We can’t brush off violence as a circumstance of where people live; this choreographed, ritualized violence will persist if we label it as the norm and then turn a blind eye to it like we are doing now. We need to show people that they have been recognized and seen and understood — a sad react on Facebook can’t do that.
Contact Amanda Rizkalla at ‘amariz’ at stanford.edu.