On Paris: Are All Men and Women Equal?

After the Paris attacks, I feel compelled to briefly pose the same question I asked a couple weeks ago:

How do we sleep at night?

Although 129 men and women lost their lives in the French capital, such travesties occur regularly across the globe, so I’ve been asking around about why Paris has such a bitter sting to it. Why is it that outraged citizens of democracies throughout the world have been decrying this wretched action of ISIS in France, yet little outcry takes place when such things happen in remote places like Syria, Afghanistan, or Africa?

This happened to us.

Memories of 9/11 have caused Americans to reach out to the French as sympathizers who have felt their pain at the hands of a common enemy. But do they reach out so fervently to Syrians or Africans, to Afghanis or Asians? Of course not, nor should we expect them to. Or should we?

The 21st century has ushered the western world into an increased belief in the value of human life and the rights of all people everywhere. Whether we differ in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, or whatever else, we are the same and equally entitled to basic happiness and peace, or so the theory of rights might suggest. And yet, as the Paris attack illustrates, mankind has a long way to go.

There is, in truth, a contradiction in the movement for worldwide liberty. We focus on human rights issues at home–like the discrimination and abuse of minorities–but ignore that such things happen abroad, and generally more severely and cruelly. This observation has long made one thing clear to me:

We value some humans above others.

I’ve heard it said that too often, we let questions of what we can or can’t do stop us from considering what we should do. This is apparent to me as I reflect on the tyranny and oppression taking place all over the world. There is just so much to be done that many people simply don’t want to bother. And all the while, people we have the power to save are helplessly slaughtered.

It makes me wonder if we truly value all human life equally, or if we simply say we believe that?

Consider families. We typically value the safety of spouses and kids over extended family, and family in general gets the nod over friends. And certainly friends over strangers. Given a choice, would we save a mother or some man we don’t know from the subway? Then does it not seem reasonable that we value the lives of Americans over Africans, or the French over the Syrians.

This is obvious, yet it isn’t a very comfortable thing to admit. But shouldn’t we admit it to ourselves? Shouldn’t we say that this is why we don’t send our soldiers to distant plains to protect those who can’t protect themselves? And why we can’t unite the powers of the world in order to rescue countless people from oppression, war, and disease?

In conclusion, I put forward a simple question to consider: do we value all human life the same? If so, perhaps we ought to do something else. Perhaps we ought to stop wondering whether or not it is worth it to help the rest of the world and instead concede that it might simply be the right thing to do.

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