The Streets of Paris Are as Familiar to Me as the Streets of Beirut

Meme widely shared in solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks.

Memes widely shared in solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks.

I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I have always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago.

These have been two horrible nights of violence. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut; the second took the lives of over 120 people and counting in Paris.

It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.

We do not get a “safe” button on Facebook. We do not get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.

We do not change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.

This could not be clearer.

I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.

It is a hard thing to realize that for all that was said, for all the progressive rhetoric we have managed to create as a seemingly united human voice, most of us members of this curious species are still excluded from the dominant concerns of the “world”.

And I know that by “world”, I am myself excluding most of the world. Because that’s how power structures work.

I do not matter.

My “body” does not matter to the “world”.

If I die, it will not make a difference.

Again, I say this with no resentment.

That statement is merely a fact. It is a political fact, true, but a fact nonetheless.

Maybe I should have some resentment in me, but I am too tired. It is a heavy thing to realize.

I know that I am fortunate enough that when I do die, I will be remembered by friends and loved ones. Maybe my blog and an online presence might even gather some thoughts by people around the world. That is the beauty of the internet. And even that is out of reach to too many.

Never so clearly as now have I understood what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about when he spoke of the Black Body in America. I think there is a story to be told of the Arab Body as well. The Native American Body. The Indigenous Body. The Latin American Body. The Indian Body. The Kurdish Body. The Pakistani Body. The Chinese Body. And so many other bodies.

The Human Body is not one. It sure feels that it should be by now. Maybe that in itself is an illusion. But maybe it is an illusion worth preserving because without even that vague aspiration towards oneness on the part of some part of the body, I am not sure what sort of world we would be living in now.

Some bodies are global, but most bodies remain local, regional, “ethnic”.

My thoughts are with all the victims of today’s and yesterday's horrific attacks, and my thoughts are with all those who will suffer serious discrimination as a result of the actions of a few mass murderers and the general failure of humanity’s imagination to see itself as a unified entity.

My only hope is that we can be strong enough to generate the opposite response to what these criminals intended. I want to be optimistic enough to say that we are getting there, wherever “there” might be.

We need to talk about these things. We need to talk about Race. We just have to.


  • Yvie Yao

    No more political correctness.

    • Sri Purna Widari

      Do you need to be so rude only because you are frustrated and hurt? You are not the only person who has the right to talk.

      • Applied Ill

        Rude? “No more political correctness” is the typical “oh, I told you so”-shit. When are we allowed to be emotional when not after an emotional situation? God damn it.

        • Zak

          Yes you can be emotional but it is not excuse for being rude. People will dismiss your comments if you are rude. They will not take you seriously. It is very hard to understand your comments when you are being so rude.

          I kinda understand your point but you are being so rude that makes it hard to even want to agree with your comments at any level.

          • Damocles Volkstedt

            I agree entirely. My heart goes out to the families in all these victims of your rudeness. Rudeness is the real terrorist attack, how dare you pretend that the death of all the Lebanese people is more pressing by comparison. Do you not understand where you are and who you are talking to?

            We are Westerners. We do not care about all the non-Western people who are dying, they can all drop dead for all we care. It makes it easier for us to continue to loot their resources and exploit their labor to fuel our own economy, all the while pretending that we are civilized. Do you have ANY IDEA how much psychological effort we need to put in to maintain our delusions of being “civilized”? Obviously not, given you are so rude.

            When we do damage control and dismiss attempts to bring attention to the death of Lebanese people as “political correctness”. You should back off next time.

          • Theresa Dullea

            Love the sarcasm here.

          • Krzysztof Czeski

            This is just stupid. Organize if we are exploiting you. Make something of your country and continent. Revolt. My people went through 300 years of occupation and we revolted and revolted until we did it and we never intentionally killed civilians. After that we got invaded again and enslaved for another 50 years by the soviets. EVEN THEN we revolted and revolted until we did it. You just want to be given stuff. Organize, revolt. WORK for it.

          • S. Valenti

            I agree. I remember a time when Beirut was called the “Paris of the Middle East” – a cosmopolitan center of tolerance, inclusion and culture. Today, it is unrecognizable from so many other centers of conflict. There came a point in its descent when I stopped asking “where are the people within Lebanon who can take back their country”. It’s what I ask today of Iraq and Syria. Too much emphasis on asking the rest of the world to be humane and receive these refugees from these unstable countries. When do we ask more of the residents to work together, organize and take up weapons against these tyrants. The key piece, I fear, is getting people to put aside stupid factional differences and focusing on the larger issues of how our commonality can help us work together.

    • Marji

      We need MORE political correctness, in my day it was called MANNERS and TOLERANCE and COMPASSION. We have allowed the worst trailer trash mentality to dominate American culture. If you keep being brainwashed by mainstream media and dropping buzzwords like political correctness, you add nothing meaningful to the conversation. Your just announcing your dysfunction as a human being. We need to stop giving airtime and credibility to the most repulsive dysfunctional people in our country and that means censorship. Im tired of the 24×7 hate speech and war mongering. It’s a threat to national security and degrades us as humans and its neither informative or entertaining.

      • Buckaroo Banzai

        Manners, tolerance, and compassion are not gained through political correctness. They are gained through better parenting, learning there are consequences for your actions and words. Political correctness stifles thinking and free speech. It instills fear and hatred toward those we perceived as being “protected” by political correctness. We need so much LESS political correctness and so much more common courtesy.

      • Ann-Louise Winter

        I agree with Buckaroo Banzai – “political correctness” means you cannot speak your mind for fear of being seen as racist, etc etc. Being able to speak your mind means that problems will be addressed. But speak with manners and courtesy, not servility and fear.

      • t33can

        I think the term ‘political correctness’ has been tarnished by perverting the noble aspirations you wrote about towards glossing over uncomfortable truths. This is especially dangerous as the backlash is mostly emotional, hyperbolic and all together polarising, thus creating radical camps and preventing a reasonable deep discussion.

  • José Rafael Solis Corps

    Even if religions are the cause of most hate in the world, hate the belief, love the believer. #DoNotPrayForParis

  • Ruchama Imana Bwefar

    Dear Joey, I have shared your story on Facebook. This what you are feeling, is exactly why I did not change my cover or profile picture into something French or Parisian. I love Paris, and I go there very often. I do not know Beirut but that doesnt mean I dont feel for you. And I am taken back with the sudden major out cry from world leaders and people all over the world. Since I feel that all lives matter. No matter where the attacks are, it is disgusting and awful and we should be as appalled by all of them. People are people, no matter where we live.
    So, please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people all over the world, who think the attack on Beirut and deaths of the people in your city are just as horrific as the deaths of the people in your other city. #WeAreAllEqual

    • Susie Partin

      !Thank you for your sane response.!

    • Barbara DeWitt

      At this time I am remembering the genocide in Rwanda where 800,000 were massacred in 4 months of hell in 1995. Today there is trouble in it’s neighbor, Burundi. It is with a heavy heart I read of Beirut and Paris but I have to believe that we are all to blame and we must find some solution. Pray that it is soon.

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  • grannylynn

    the only difference i see is that killings go on in the middle east constantly. it does not make it right or less tragic but because somewhere in the middle east there are always conflict going on we have become numb to it. an attack in Paris is more rare so it gets more attention. the whole situation is a mess. and yes we need to talk to each other to recognize no matter what we believe we are all human beings . i just don’t hold out much hope for that right now.

    • Harriet

      You are wrong on so many counts.
      1. have you been paying attention to this?

      2. U.S. and allies have been killing far more people in the Middle East than anybody. Check out death, injury, child ptsd and displacement statistics on Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Libya, Lebanon, and U.S. backed Saudi war on Yemen. People living constantly under fear of drone attacks by your military in multiple countries. etc. etc. Armingi Israel’s genocidal war on Palestinians.
      3.Then there are the constant mass attacks by young usually white American guys here in the U.S.
      Do you see that the way that you and other Americans see things help exacerbate the terrible world situation? You and so many others possess the ability to filter out what you don’t want to see so you can always think that some other people “over there’ are the problem…

      • bob

        That is what you call.. a complete LIE… I won’t link stats about murder in the United states or your crap about the middle east cause I don’t want to embarrass the shit out of you.

    • bikebabe

      I think that that is a big part of the point. I care and am a deeply emphatic person. Every day I send love and compassion toward those that are suffering and remind myself to try and do better because of all the blessings that I have in my life that others don’t. There is little that I can do in the grand scheme of all this hate and violence in the world, other than do my best to vote for the best person I can (difficult given the choices), help my neighbor, give and serve when I can, and raise my voice. Often, our choices are made for us and we are not even aware of it. Like media coverage. I would want more information on the Beruit situation and others that don’t even make it in the media as far as that did. But people more powerful than I decide what I will become aware of and the slant they will give it. I like to go to new outlets in other countries to see what is being said, but I only understand English and Spanish well enough to grasp what is being said. AND, a person only has so much emotional stamina.

  • Stuart Mark Berlin

    There is no such thing as race. There is only one human race. There are many cultures and the culture of patriarchal hateful violence that is Arab terrorism is the main political problem in the world. All this hateful violence toward women and the Western world keeps up from focusing on the real problems of the world, overpopulation and global climate change.

    • greenbeen

      Oh Lord, where to start with this one.
      There are many cultures, but there are also many ethnicities. Different colors of skin get treated differently – whether you are the Hutu or Tutsi (differing shades of black) or different castes in India (people often marry by color of brown). Yes there is only one human race, but racism and looking at one color as superior to another is a problem.

      • Stuart Mark Berlin

        Racism and looking at one color as superior to another is an idea that must be ridiculed for its nonsense. I care about a person’s culture, not a person’s genetic profile, unless I am thinking of making a baby with them. Jews and Palestinians are almost indistinguishable genetically since they were one people until Islam came through the Holy Land making Jews convert or die. Those Jews converted by sword 1300 years ago are the Palestinian people. Jews and Palestinians must become one people the way that the Angles and the Saxons became one people. The resolution to this problem is not by making comments about a non existent entity called race, it is through peaceful cultural transformations that honor women, evolutionary biology, neurobiology and history.

  • Gwoobus Harmon

    I could not agree more with you, We discuss race every single day at this website :


    Are you brave enough to join an actual dialogue, not have one sided monologue?

  • lambert darcy

    I don’t get it. If there are different ethnic “bodies”, doesn’t that argue that white people SHOULD care more about dead white people?

    A bombing in a country that has been torn by political and sectarian violence for the last ~40 years is terrible, but not particularly surprising.

    An organized attack on random civilians in multiple locations, timed to go off together, with bombs in a location where the president of a NATO country is present, committed by (apparently) foreign terrorists is shocking. It reveals that in the conflict with islamic terror, there is no place that is safe. None.

    None of these reasons have anything to do with race.

    Speaking of race, I’m going to go off on that a little bit, too. When I was a kid, Marlo Thomas, Kasey Kasem, and Jamie Farr were white. How did our understanding of race become more disjointed, so that ethnic differences separate us more now than in the past?

    • JustMe

      Joey clearly talks about the aspiration towards oneness of bodies. What I interpret from that statement, and I suspect the author of the article will agree, is that it is something we should strive to achieve. So NO, all people should care if people die. Not whites for whites, blacks for blacks, Syrians for Syrians, French for French.
      However, Joey clearly states this is an illusion. This is an illusion partly because of our intrinsic desire to mourn for people we identify with. Its also partly due to the media and those in power not giving enough attention to atrocities on a much higher scale that occur in some places of Africa and the Middle East.

      Society in general has become more multicultural than in the past. All concepts of race/racial divisions are thrown out the window when that happens.

      • lambert darcy

        First of all, thank you for a thoughtful response. You don’t always get that on comment boards.

        So which is it? A goal to strive for, or a feel-good self-deceptive illusion?

        There are billions of people in the world. We can’t all mourn for all of them. I can’t, anyway. It would take too much out of me. I get why Joey feels connected to both cities. I don’t. I respond more to an earthquake in California than to one in Sichuan, and I suspect that’s true of most Americans.

        And I’ve been doing some thinking since I posed the question about race. I actually think the progress that has been made by blacks for acceptance as full citizens has demolished a cultural binary view of race. When I was a child, the Haddads, Rodriguezs, and Nguyens maybe weren’t “white”, but they weren’t “black” so they were more socially acceptable. To that extent, I think you are partially right about concepts of race being thrown out the window.

        • JustMe

          If you wan’t to make the world a better place, its obviously a goal to strive for.
          Having said that, I understand where you’re coming from. People care less about things they are detached from. More so for Americans. Being a member of a superpower, American citizens are in an enviable position to not care about what happens to the rest of the world at all. For the most part, these events don’t affect you.

          An earthquake is a localized event. Terrorism is not, its global. The effects of terrorism in one country has an effect on others (refugees). Your example is not a good one, but I get your point.

          I’m not American and I’ve never understand your country’s infatuation for identifying people by race. I’ve filled out forms that asked me to identify as Caucasian or Black or Hispanic or Asian. I’ve always had to select other because people from my country never categorized ourselves by race.

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