This past week’s attack in Chelsea came as a surprise to me. I was out on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, enjoying my Saturday night with friends, only to receive a text from my Tunisian girlfriend asking me if I was okay. She informed me that there had been an explosion in Manhattan and wasn’t sure if I had been near it. Luckily for me, I was quite far away, hence why I hadn’t even heard the explosion. Chelsea sits in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, so it was on the opposite end of the island from me.
Upon returning home, I flipped on CNN and saw the news reports evolve from ones about an unidentified explosion into coverage about an intentional attack.
Watching this coverage of the attack, I felt few internal emotions. Instead, I thought about how the people who were there must have felt: shocked, fearful, and traumatized. Then I realized that this one explosion was the daily reality for many throughout the world. Residents of cities like Mosul and Aleppo live out such scenes on a daily basis. The results are usually direr, with deadlier consequences and almost no international mourning.
In New York, a bomb went off, wounding 30, and world news channels shut off their coverage of everything and anything else and honed in on the scene at Chelsea. I understand that New York is the most famous city in the world and any violence there is newsworthy, but the juxtaposition of news coverage for this attack and one in an Arab country is unsettling to say the least. If the bomb had exploded in Baghdad, no one would have batted an eye.
This isn’t meant as a criticism to anyone. Instead, it is a call for all of us to stop implicitly considering certain human lives more important than others.
I know there’s so much violence throughout the world and it’s easy to get inundated by tragic stories. At the same time, we still have to care just as much about a Syrian child as we do about a 20-something year old New Yorker.
Imagine rubble collapsing on both your mother and brother at the same time. Think about your sister being in a playground when a bomb goes off and your father rushing in to save her, only to be swept away by a second explosion. We would naturally feel sorrow in such situations and wouldn’t wish such tragedies upon anyone. We need to train ourselves to feel this same level of compassion for all victims of violent attacks around the world, regardless of what country they come from or what beliefs they ascribe to. This type of universal solidarity is a powerful antidote to the vitriol directed at the “other” spreading throughout the world. Let’s turn these tragedies into unifying moments and demonstrate our collective humanity at a time when we need it more than ever.