Shaming, Anger, and Intolerance: Don’t Give In

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Deplorable, outrageous, shocking, disgusting, inhumane, shameful, terrifying, arrogant, insane, pathetic, pathological, and deeply disturbing.

These are some of the words used by people around the world on social media this past weekend to describe the Paris attacks and the ISIS attackers. I would venture to say most of us would agree many are fitting words to describe the senseless and barbaric killing of innocent men, women, and children in Paris, the City of Light. Other words fit the atrocities committed against innocent men, women, and children in Beirut, Kenya, New York, Boston, Cambodia, Russia, and many countries around the world, from past to recent times.

I expected to see the words listed in the first sentence of this blog post used in describing the attack and the loss of life on November 14, 2015. I expected people would disagree with any number of things that happened or didn’t happen this past weekend according to how they would have handled the situation if they ruled the world, according to their political leaning. But I did not expect and was disheartened by after reading the same words directed at people who’d changed their Facebook images to the colors of the French flag in a show of support for the French people after the attacks. I couldn’t fathom people were offended by a showing of compassion, empathy, and solidarity for people who share the same planet, and who supported the United States after 9/11. Not to mention that it seems everyone who isn’t signed up for ISIS is an infidel—the French people, in addition to me, and most probably, you.

Upon learning about the Paris attacks, I immediately changed my Facebook profile photo to a ‘Pray for Paris’ image. I lived in France several times in my life, and worked in Lourdes, France for many years, and praying centers me during difficult times. I changed my profile photo to show my solidarity, just as I’ve done to show my support for gay rights, women’s rights, against human trafficking, and when hundreds of innocent Nigerian school girls were kidnapped, raped, and tortured by Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group based in Nigeria.

I agreed with French President Hollande’s decision to declare a three-day mourning period for the victims and their loved ones. Out of respect for the victims, their families and friends, and for my French friends living in France, I decided to stay off social media as much as possible on the second and third days following the attack. I don’t know about you, but most everything I did last weekend seemed a bit trivial in light of the deaths and destruction in Paris, and like most of us, I remained glued to online breaking news out of Europe.

Tonight I caught up on social media, and I was greatly saddened by many displays of humanity against humanity on Facebook and Twitter. There were vicious attacks on those supporting (or not) the acceptance of Syrian refugees into their communities, and slams on people agreeing or disagreeing with France and the United States’ decision to bomb the Daesh, as some described it, as ‘back to the Stone Age’. There was finger pointing and lashing out, racial slurs and spewing of hatred in reaction to what President Obama was doing right or wrong, the NRA, the US military, the pacifists, ‘war mongers’, Christians, Muslims, and people accusing others of acting like sheep—for following the herd and jumping on the bandwagon of support for France, who they claim ‘probably deserved it.’ Global warming even made an appearance today in an argument that it is still BS and a figment of our imagination.

Among the pleas calling for people to remain calm, focused, and to come together as one, which I agree with, a woman posted a photograph of the Oklahoma bomber, reminding her Facebook friends that the US was the target of much bloodshed and tragedy at the hands of an American madman on American soil–leave Paris to the French. A man posted a photo taken on 9/11 and raged against Muslims, wanting each and every Muslim DEAD. Yes, he’d typed ‘dead’ in all caps. An outraged woman replied to the Oklahoma post by replying, ‘How dare you attack Americans and Christians now. DEPLORABLE.’ Soon, I lost track of who said what about what, and turned my laptop off. I kept murmuring, ‘But not all Muslims are terrorists.’

The reactions to the tri-color Facebook profile photos and the eye-opening outbursts of many today reminded me that when we are frightened, stressed, pushed to our emotional and mental limits; when we’ve experienced similar situations of trauma at home and abroad; or when we are outraged and feel impotent to help others and ourselves, many of us will lash out. We might begin pointing fingers, drawing into ourselves, or many of us will show our true colors by shaming and ridiculing others. I am reminded that the definitions of passion are varied and complicated:

passion: the emotions as distinguished from reason

b :  intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction

c :  an outbreak of anger

a :  ardent affection :  love

b :  a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

Of course I am filtering what I perceive as negative comments through my life experiences, which are undoubtedly different from the opinions of the woman standing next to me at Walmart or the views of the man on the treadmill beside me at the gym. I get that; we all do that, but please remember…

We ALL share the same fears and concern for our families, friends, and communities, at home and abroad. And with every attack by ISIS, we are shown the frightening agenda for their version of the End of Times, the Apocalypse, which they have shown they will die for. We are the target. We, as in all of us who are not members of ISIS. Threats against our country understandably make us edgy and afraid, which often breeds suspicion, anger, and intolerance. I say, don’t give in. But I do have questions…

I pray what I saw online tonight was us finding ourselves under extreme conditions of fear, insecurity, and duress over the attacks, not because we have hatred in our hearts. Yes, I’m outraged by the Paris attacks. I’m worried, as well. As a woman and mother, I worry for Syrian women, mothers and their children as they try to escape and find asylum. I worry for my children, living in the US and abroad, about the world they will inherit, and I am deeply saddened for those who were massacred in Paris and for their families from many nations who are burying their loved ones this week.

I hesitated in sharing this blog post, and can only hope you take it in the same vein in which it is offered, as my two cents–I’m trying to reign in my fear just as you are. I’m trying to understand and learn. I don’t have the answers, but I’m searching. However, I believe that if we turn to hate and rip away from each other, at the very seam of the fabric of our society, and fight amongst ourselves, instead of being tolerant and trying to understand each other at home and abroad, and more importantly, remaining focused on the bigger picture—creating a peaceful world for our children—it will unravel, and I fear we could be playing right into the enemy’s hands. I sure as hell hope not.

God bless us all.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family  support worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, and book clubs across the United States have enjoyed the book. She is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

#1000Speak – 1000 Voices for Compassion

Featured Image -- 2683 The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another. – Thomas Merton A month ago, I learned about 1000 Voices for Compassion on a Facebook thread, and it took me a few seconds to decide to join this blog movement. We’re each asked to write a personal blog post on compassion, and share it on February 20th.

As of yesterday there were 1002 voices, most likely more by now, and I’m happy to add my own blog to the growing list on the designated day. I love the idea of thousands of men, women, and children sharing their thoughts on compassion on one day. Of course, these outpourings would be wonderful every day, but the idea that positive, hopeful, and loving energy will emanate on that day from all corners of the globe warms my heart. It will be an outpouring of love that will connect us to each other in a common goal—showing compassion. Global warmth–what a beautiful thought during these trying times around the world.

In this age of ME, it’s easy to forget that our greatest accomplishments were not achieved alone. I took a weekend workshop on personal development where the facilitator asked us to list one personal accomplishment that didn’t involve one other person to achieve. A young man raised his hand and offered his higher education degree; no one helped him with that, he said. He told us how he’d studied hard, worked late, and had done it all on his own. The facilitator mentioned possible mentors, counselors, and the young man’s parents who’d probably paid some, if not all of his college tuition. The man cocked his head and sat down, perhaps thinking of how his soccer coach had instilled good habits and discipline on his team.

A fifty-year old woman stood up next and said, “I have the perfect accomplishment, and no one but me did this. I gave birth to two children!” The facilitator smiled at her. “Unless you had your children in the woods with a stick between your teeth, you didn’t do it alone.” The woman agreed. “And perhaps you had a sperm donor?” Well, my contribution to the discussion was going to be giving birth, as well! And try as I might, I couldn’t think of a single thing that I’d done alone in my life without the help of another person-not writing a book, learning to repair the commode in my old house, growing a garden, or raising my children.

We are all interconnected in a beautiful, magical way.

My feelings of love and protection toward my children are no different from mothers in Asia, Africa, or Europe. We kiss our children goodnight, soothe their fears, and offer encouragement. What about mothers who can’t offer their children clean drinking water, nourishing food, and safety against rebel forces? What about the suffering of women in male-dominated societies? Would we not feel the same anguish as the mothers of the kidnapped Nigerian girls who are still missing? What about the young men and women trafficked all around the world and in my country, the United States?

So yes, while February 20th will be a day of warm and fuzzy feelings, beautiful, heart-felt blog posts about compassion, let us not forget to show compassion, as well. To our neighbors, those less fortunate than ourselves, the marginalized, and the abused, who live next door, in our towns and cities, across borders and the ocean.

Join us on February 20th, 2015 when 1000 voices will speak out for compassion. Join the Facebook group at 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group. Or, tweet #1000Speak if you’re on Twitter.

About the author:

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her passion for writing. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. A Decent Woman is her debut novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she lives in West Virginia.

Book synopsis of A Decent Woman, coming March 24, 2015

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.