128 Dead — People Like You and Me

The news reports say at least 128 people have died as a result of the most-recent Paris terrorist attacks. It’s heart-breaking, of course. They were massacred in one of the world’s most glamorous cities — people like you and me.

What does that mean? Who are the people like you and me? As a white middle-class male with European ancestry, is there a touch of racism when I say those words — people like you and me? Yesterday, Mel’s Mouth was read by 75 people in 21 countries, including Indonesia, India, Mexico, Jordan and Malaysia. The dead in France came from a dozen countries.

The truth is we’re all people like you and me, but victims get more sympathy when they’re mostly white and of mostly European ancestry. I refuse to blame “the media” for that. We all share in the prejudice that values white lives over those we classify as people of color. More than 100 college students were slaughtered in Kenya earlier this year, and in Beirut two coordinated suicide bombings killed 41 people. Paris has gotten the sympathy.DeGaulle Statue 2

Bias isn’t the only reason Paris got more attention, but what’s especially troubling is what nations are now going to do in retaliation and how many deaths that will cause.

I don’t mean to belittle 128 deaths, but for perspective, here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations:

  • 145 people die every 10 seconds around the world from hunger.
  • 143 die every 30 minutes of alcohol-related causes.
  • 137 die every hour in auto accidents.
  • 182 die every eight hours of drug abuse, and that doesn’t count tobacco-related deaths, which are much more numerous.

The war in Iraq has already been a recruiting bonanza for terrorists. The Buddhist precepts and the Abrahamic commandments tell us not to kill, as do most other religions. Yet we persist in using warlike terms and warlike actions as a response to the 128 deaths in Paris.

Is pacifism always the answer? I am not wise enough to answer that question. But I am sure that more violence is not the answer to the Paris bombings. Let’s use our energy instead to defeat hunger and addiction.

Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine

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