Monday was surely a horrible day in Manchester. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the survivors, the victim’s families, and the citizens of Manchester overall. The intense media coverage made that perfectly clear. But the grievous terror attack in Manchester also raises a familiar dilemma. How much compassion, moral outrage and international focus does this abomination merit when comparable trauma is almost routine in other parts of the world?
As people wept and the western world looked on with sadness and disgust, Monday wasn’t a very good day for the people of Mosul either.
Same with Caracas. With Venezuela increasingly dubbed the Syria of South America, this protester was photographed running through the streets on fire.
The photo leading this post was one of the most widely distributed images of the Manchester attack. Surrounded by female officers, this young woman’s pant leg was literally blown off. Every attack is heinous, but Manchester’s targeting was unique. It was specifically aimed at young girls, fans of the rock star Ariana Grande, an artist adored for songs that present a knowing and less inhibited depiction of social life. Grande invites girls to explore their identity with a more expressive, and a less sheltered and innocent view of the world. For the terrorist, it was the perfect achievement. Stoking fear as well as ire, how dare the evil doers stoop to attacking the young girls in the west. In less prosperous or stable settings, however, innocence itself is a luxury.
Perhaps the most insidious impact of the attack on Manchester is the narrowing of western attention. In the face of rage, who stops to consider context a casualty?
Yes, Monday was a day to recognize the pain and suffering inflicted on the girls of Manchester. Same with the days following. But what does that directed focus and outpouring of empathy say about Noor, a 4 year old child in a field hospital in west Mosul whose face was (equally) riddled with shrapnel from the ongoing battle with ISIS?
What about this Syrian girl whose family fled Homs on Tuesday, her town completely overrun by government forces?
And what about this Libyan girl rescued from a boat off Lampedusa, Italy on Wednesday? (I’m sparing you the photos of children actually drowning or the recovery of their bodies.) The flow of migrants escaping war and persecution in Africa and the Middle East has hardly abated, even though the world’s and the media’s interest has.
But my purpose is not to deliver a morality lesson. Instead, it’s to recover some context from the rubble of (England’s) Monday. It is to remind ourselves of the terror threat we face everyday, and the dulling of our larger humanity.
(Photo 1: Rex Features, via Associated Press. Caption: Police officers helping an injured concertgoer. Manchester, England. May 22, 2017. Photo 2: REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani Caption: Smoke rises from an airstrike during a battle between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in western Mosul. Photo 3: Reuters/Marco Bello. Caption: Man set on fire during Venezuela protests Caracas, Venezuela. 20 May 2017. Caracas, Venezuela. Photo 4: Carol Guzy/Freelance/ZUMA Press. Caption: Tiny battered face of 4 year old child named Noor who escaped with her mother during fighting with ISIS is treated at trauma field hospital operated by Aspen Medical and World Health Organization 15 kilometers from the front lines of west Mosul, Iraq on May 19, 2017. She sustained shrapnel wounds and injuries after their home collapsed and is comforted by a family member who wept when she saw her. The center provides emergency triage, surgery, X-ray capability, obstetrics and life-saving medical support for civilian casualties of the conflict with ISIS. Photo 5: OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images. Caption: A Syrian child who was a part of a convoy of opposition fighters and their families, evacuated from the Waer neighbourhood, the last opposition-held district in the central city of Homs, stands next to a bus after their arrival in the Maaret al-Ikhwaan village north of Idlib, on May 22, 2017. The Syrian regime on May 21 regained total control of the central city of Homs with the evacuation of rebels from the last area they had controlled. Photo 6: Chris McGrath/Getty Images. Caption: LAMPEDUSA, ITALY – MAY 24: Refugees and migrants are seen on board a wooden boat as they wait for rescue crews from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ‘Phoenix’ vessel on May 24, 2017 off Lampedusa, Italy. The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ‘Phoenix’ vessel rescued 603 people after one of three wooden boats partially capsized leaving more than 30 people dead. Numbers of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy has risen since the same time last year with more than 43,000 people recorded so far in 2017. In an attempt to slow the flow of migrants Italy recently signed a deal with Libya, Chad and Niger outlining a plan to increase border controls and add new reception centers in the African nations, which are key transit points for migrants heading to Italy. MOAS is a Malta based NGO dedicated to providing professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea. Since the start of the year MOAS have rescued and assisted 3572 people and are currently patrolling and running rescue operations in international waters off the coast of Libya.)