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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.

82 comments

  • jwp

    I believe this is a bit of an exaggeration. This is Paris we’re talking. I don’t know Beirut, I don’t even know where it is within the country of Lebanon. I’ve never met anyone from Beirut, I’ve never seen a picture of Beirut. And I’m from Canada, Quebec. We get a lot of immigrants here.

    This is Paris though. The images of Paris are everywhere, so much that there’s a Pixar movie about Paris. The Eiffel Tower? A symbol. Not just for France, but a global symbol of romance, art, passion, and many more. People have dreams about living in Paris. Do people dream of living in Beirut? I’ve never in my life time, in my travels and residences over four continents, talked to anyone about Beirut, nor did anyone talk about it to me. But Paris? You hear about Paris in conversations everywhere.

    Paris is a global city. Paris is the City of Light. Paris, Paris, Paris. My cousins from Korea, the sister of my friend from Jeju Island, my friend from Japan, are all mourning for Paris, yet you can’t blame them for not mourning for Beirut because of something tied to race. It’s just awareness. They just don’t know about Beirut as much as Paris. The last time I ever thought about Beirut was elementary school geography class, and same goes for most people if that city doesn’t come up in political science text books or if you don’t meet someone from there. Paris? Always. I’ve got friends there. My friends have friends there. My family have friends there. Everyone is connected to that city somehow, or keep a special place in their hearts. I’m sorry, but Paris is a special city regardless of race. Beirut is not.

    I’m sure, yes, race has got to do with this. But I don’t know if geographical unawareness equates to racism. I’m sorry that people care less about Beirut, but that’s because Paris is Paris, not because Paris is somewhere full of Western people.

    • JustMe

      You may not know Beirut, Aleppo,Karachi. You may not consider it a special city. But there are millions, I repeat MILLIONS of people that do know these places and consider them special cities.
      You may not have dreams of living in Beirut, but there are people who do.

      Geographical ignorance does not equate to racism. Of course not. This is not a race issue. But it is an issue of ignorance. It’s not your fault that you don’t care about Beirut as much as you do Paris. I don’t blame you. I blame the circumstances that caused you to not care about Beirut.

      I blame Facebook for selectively choosing Paris as a symbol to unite against terrorism by allowing users to modify their profile pictures. I blame the media for its lack of coverage on the Beirut bombings or tragedies in other under-developed regions. I blame the governments of powerful countries that only care about change in underdeveloped countries only when it suits their interests. Of course I also blame the local corrupt governments.

    • Mattheus Anderson

      A coordinated attack in the capital city of a secure, developed country is infinitely more shocking and terrifying than one that occurs in places in which violence is , unfortunately, endemic.

      Does that mean lives are valued any more or less? OF course not.

      But Paris is a global city. An attack there is really symbolic.

      And anyone who believes this is about racism is just being moronic. Paris is totally multicultural, full of locals and tourists from every corner of the globe. On looking up the victims of this attack, it’s very clear from the surnames that plenty of the dead are African, Arab, European… you name it.

  • […] The most profound piece I’ve read since Friday night is a short article by Joey Ayoub, […]

  • Sylvie Brigot-Vilain

    No matter how sad I am tonight about what happened here in Paris yesterday and criminal take of the 130 lives, I agree with you Joey Ayoub that indeed lives do not seem to matter the same but that is not true. and all of us citizens of this world know we are all concerned by people’s lives wherever it exists, and tha is why solidarity, and cross borders outreach is so crucial. we are all one.

  • OKay

    Are humans one race?

    • OKay

      OK, not an “upvoted” topic. I’ll stear clear.

  • Vsj Ram

    To heck with you all!!! Who cares if people show their condolences or not. There are some who feel like saints by putting on the French flag on their FB profile. Thousands die everyday across the world and no one gives a damn. Thousands of people are literally murdered everyday by these ridiculous demons, in various countries like Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, and only when the USA or a European country is affected do you voice your numbers. You punks are trying to create an issue out of nothing. People died and keep dying for god sake!!!!!!!! Please try to find the reasoning behind that. The truth is that we all are hypocrites and this proves it. I weep when humanity is killed, be it in Paris or Beirut or Karachi. To all those people who think life is a merry ride, I hope it brings you back to reality after what happened a few days ago. To just inform you, this is not a rarity!! So many of our fellow species die everyday and we can do something about. But first we must try to find out the dark reality behind these attacks. Remember, there is always a reaction for every action. It sad to see a few ridiculous scumbags determining the fate of millions. It’s also sad that innocent people are caught in between and are ridiculously killed everyday……. I feel ashamed to be human!!!!

  • greenbeen

    This is an exaggeration. Beirut is a beautiful, historic city full of valuable people…. It is also home to the Hezbollah headquarters and shares a HUGE border with Syria & Israel. Hezbollah has struck out at both Sunnis & ISIS. Because of it’s borders, Beirut has been bombed and warring since the 80s. There have been several bombs in the past few year and it’s largely considered PART of the Syrian war in it’s news coverage.

    1) The strike in Paris was targeted for maximum attention and fear. It was throughout the evening at multiple locations. There were 3 suicide bombers at a stadium with 80,000 people! 2) Paris is not bordering Syria. It is not under direct “geographical proximity” threat from ISIS, so a strike there was a bold move & anomaly. 3) Beirut has a population of 360,000. The Ile De France (Paris and it’s burroughs) is the largest in the European Union with 11 million.

    Finally, in 2013 Beirut had a suicide bomb and Nairobi, Kenya had a mass shooting at a mall. That mall attacked & garnered much media coverage – far more than Beirut’s bombing.

    In 2004, Beirut had an assassination attempt. In 2005, the Prime Minister was assassinated and 220 were killed/wounded Also, in 2005 Madrid had a bombing on a train. That bombing drew much more western media attention than Beirut. Those were brown and black bodies getting more attention that Beirut.

    I’m not saying racism or a need for diversity don’t exist. But speak out about it when it actually fits. It doesn’t apply here.

    Beirut is part of an area that has been at war ad infinitum an nauseum. I am sorry to write the above and to acknowledge that there is not as much media attention toward the terrible things that have happened to your people. But I would firmly state that it is because of a certain numbness toward the constant violence and war there.

  • John Cobblestone-Thrower

    Are you seriously suggesting that people are more upset about the attack in Paris than in Lebanon because of RACISM? Are you nuts?

    Listen, snow in Alaska is not news, snow in Qatar is. Because its always snowing in Alaska, and never in Qatar.

    Similarly this kind of stuff happens in Lebanon all the time. This kind of stuff NEVER happens in France. Suicide bombers in Paris was practically unthinkable until yesterday. Suicide bombers in Beirut are sadly pretty run of the mill. The government of Lebanon is itself partly a terrorist organization funded by Iran.

    So quite you whining and stop playing the victim game. Nobody is being racist because they are shocked by the attacks in Paris. You people are just so crazy I’m almost impressed.

  • Joselyn Schutz

    I regularly post about attacks that no one else seems to have heard about. But I don’t think their silence has one lick to do with race.

    It has to do with human nature. When an attack is the norm, it doesn’t shock us as much – and in fact, we don’t even hear about it, because the media doesn’t bother to inform us. But when it’s totally unexpected, completely out of the norm, it jars us out of our complacency and horrifies us. When 40 people are shot down in a weekend in Chicago (as happens on a very regular basis), we think nothing of it. We literally don’t even know about it. When 40 people are shot in Marietta, GA on a weekend, or even 9 in a Charleston Church on a weekday, it finally strikes us what a crisis it is. It’s unexpected.

    Lebanon is in the middle of a decades-long battle with terrorists, and civil war. So is Iraq. Paris is not. It’s human nature to be shocked at the one that’s unexpected.

    God rest the souls of all the victims of terrorism or any kind of violence, no matter where, no matter when, no matter why. It’s a tragedy, every time.

  • joe

    Do you think he Chinese gave two shites about either? No? Acknowledge that people are tribal, ethnographic, and in group focused by NATURE. Then realize you hold white westerners to a different standard than you hold the rest of the world. Then FUCK OFF.

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