Whenever a global tragedy occurs, the world pauses to take a moment to share a hashtag, to air their thoughts and prayers.
Then it carries on.
Then we carry on.
Last night I shared a couple of posts that reflected the grief and mourning from the Christchurch shooting. I didn’t add my own words – I refused to type the generic “thoughts and prayers to those who have been lost and have lost.”
So I didn’t say anything at all.
This morning I was flipping through Instagram stories.
An account I follow had posted some new templates. I took a screenshot of it and prepared to fill it in and click share.
I didn’t because it felt wrong.
How could I post a silly little template just a few hours after mourning the loss of 49 people, after sharing in a part of the grief of countless other people who bear that tragedy on their shoulders. How could I preach love and acceptance and tolerance and awareness, and then carry on with my life as if nothing had changed.
“But Chanel,” you could say, “you didn’t know anyone in the shooting. You aren’t mourning personally for people you have lost. It didn’t affect you.”
“But Chanel,” you could argue, “you don’t owe people you don’t know your attention. No one really cares about what you post.”
And it’s true. I wasn’t there. I haven’t lost the way 49 families have lost. I am not aching the way 49 families are aching.
But that’s not what acknowledging the news was about.
You have to speak up.
You have to speak out.
Because who would I be if I watched hate set the world on fire, and didn’t say a word?
Who would I be if I watched intolerance burn all that is good to the ground, and I never even condemned the matches?
Who would I be?
Living in four different countries, I’ve been exposed to and immersed in numerous cultures.
I have friends from all over the globe. In fact, I’ve been all over the globe.
In Thailand, I have seen mothers driving their children to school, veering through small streets on motorcycles – so strikingly similar to the way my mom used to explore short cuts to beat the morning rush. I sat in river taxis, surrounded by chess players, and monks, and a tour guide who said that we could call him Andy, because it was easier to pronounce than his Thai name. We did ask him his name, and I still have it written down, a one line dedication in my travel journal.
In Ireland, I accompanied my campsite neighbours to the concert hall of a tiny village and learnt how to dance to traditional music. I bought a beanie from a lady who ranted about directors closing down business on the island to shoot a movie that we had watched a week or so before venturing to the location on holiday.
In Palestine, I listened as my parents and our taxi drivers talked about the wall between countries, and how they lived with borders between families. I crossed a checkpoint others couldn’t, to walk on a wall that surrounded a city divided into quarters, dividing two nations. I explored the same sites that pilgrims worshiped barefooted and weeping. All the while there were carols playing, melodies I understood even when the lyrics were in a foreign tongue.
Who would I be if I walked the same roads those people have walked, then stood still as they were slaughtered?
Who would I be if I did not try to raise my voice, to make sure the people around me were raised to raise others, and not raze communities to the ground?
Who would I be if I was neutral in the face of injustice, if I chose the side of oppressor?
Who would I be?
It is not fear that drives these acts of terror.
There is no justifiable “-phobia“.
This is hatred incited by ignorance, egged on by leaders who are not dictating, not serving.
This is loathing of anything that deviates from a twisted concept of normality and acceptable.
This is the vilification of a people who welcome strangers as their siblings, hello brother, only to be murdered by a person who thinks they are justified by the lack of melanin in their skin and their ancestors notorious reputation for converting those who they deemed savage.
Who would I be if I did not pause for a moment to amplify the voices of the marginalised?
Who would I be if I left the shrivelled manifestos to rot without even trying to rid my environment of the spores?
Who would I be?
There can be no “thoughts and prayers” and “keep calm and carry on” in the same minute.
There can be only be the persistent protesting and raising of fists in solidarity for all of the lives that have been stolen by villains who think the humanity of people is debatable.
There can only be action. There can only be movement. There can only be noise.
If I never showed that I stood with the people so many others have tried to push down:
who would I be?