Here is a rendition of La Marseillaise that I arranged and played on the piano. It is one of my favorite National Anthems.
On the day of the Paris attacks, I was at a library in Pasadena all day, studying with my friends Daniel and Andy. We were so consumed in our study that none of us thought to check to see what was happening in the world, so naturally, I did not hear of the attacks until I got into my car that evening.
On my drive home, the radio talked about the attacks, and nothing else. I spent the 40-minute car ride, kind of in a state of disbelief. I mean, that could have happened to me, or to anyone I know. It happened at a concert, and I go to concerts all the time.
The next day, I was driving to work, and again, the whole time the radio show hosts talked about the Paris attacks.
I started to wonder why this attack in Paris was getting significantly more coverage than other violent acts elsewhere. The Paris attack happened literally ONE DAY after a deadly suicide attack in Beirut, yet the radio did not mention it, not even for a bit, during my car rides. Then I remembered something I had read a while back:
In her book Compassion Fatigue, journalist Susan Moeller writes: “In the news business, one dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth fifty Arabs, who are worth five hundred Africans.”
To let the news be the main source of information to educate ourselves about what is happening around the world constantly gives us a false sense of reality, because the coverage of stories is so disproportional to what is actually happening. First of all, the news almost always makes the world look like a much more dangerous and polarized place, because something that happens everyday are considered mundane and not newsworthy, and opinions of people who stand in the middle of the political spectrum are not as entertaining to hear. But the ignorant and hateful rhetoric from Donald Trump? Oh that, we want more! So the realities of a vast number of people are far from what is being shown in the news. And what’s worse, as Susan Moeller so accurately (yes, it is tragic that she is not joking) stated, we really do not care about violence, unless white people are dying.
If you don’t believe it, just consider that nearly 20,000 children died today, mostly from preventable causes stemming from poverty and malnutrition. Yet how many of us even stopped for a moment to think about these deaths today? I know I didn’t. I mean, shouldn’t that be a big deal, 20,000 people? That’s like 200 Paris attacks! Why is that not on the news?
The amount of coverage for violent acts vary widely based on location. Did it happen on our soil? Then we react as if the world is coming to an end. Did it happen somewhere in the Middle East or Africa? Then we don’t talk about it, we’re not aware much of the time, and even if we were, we don’t seem to care.
I do not mean to trivialize any death anywhere, but we cannot ignore our own biases. Racism is not a thing of the past. Racism does not propagate by deliberately racist people, but rather by the prejudice, however small and unconscious, that we each hold, deep inside our souls, and only by recognizing that fundamental truth, we can then start to make this world a better, more just, place.