Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Violence, death and the racist tropes of discourse

Facebook today is inundated with accounts of pain, empathy, and outpouring of support for Boston. Headlines and posts such as "terror strikes again" have caught our attention once again.

The show of emotion expresses itself in the act of reaching out, in finding a common point of emotional sharing with the people in Boston.

Stories emerge that seek to respect the dignity of the lives lived.

Our attention is drawn to the observations that this is one of the oldest marathons and that the race was taking place on a special day, symbolizing all the good things about freedom, liberty, and independence.

The stories of heroism emerge on this backdrop to narrate the courage of the American people.

The expressed emotions on social media ranging from pain to anger remind me of the range of emotions I was immersed in after the 9/11 attacks. The inherent goodness and strength of Boston residents is juxtaposed in the backdrop of the imagined perpetrator of terror. Along the lines of the 9/11 coverage, conversations move toward finding the perpetrator and holding him/her to justice. President Obama, much like his predecessor, promises to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime.

We feel these emotions with our American friends, and the number of "likes," "commentaries," and "posts" from across the globe depict this sense of empathy and connection.

In this instance, our expressions of emapthy are closely tied to events localized in the US and are turned into sites of global solidarity. I witness on social media the outpouring of emotions, netizens standing by the people of Boston.

And yet, why is it, I wonder, that these emotions among us across the globe seem reserved for the Americans?

Why is it that the same emotions of empathy and anger are denied to the many children and civilians who are killed in the US-orchestrated attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? What stops us from feeling the same kind of pain for the innocent children in Pakistan who are victims of targeted drone attacks carried out by the US?

Why is it that when I post the link to the accounting of the drone attacks below, the post remains ignored.


What happens to our sense of dignity, civility, and global citizenship when it comes to expressing our love for the many innocent victims of the US-led drone attacks in the global South? Are these bodies of children not to be counted? Are these losses to violence not to be mourned?

You might say to this, we are desensitized to the images of violence in the Middle East.

You might say that the drone attacks are a strategic response to end terror and therefore are likely to produce collaterals.

Or else, you may say, this is not the right time or place to discuour ss these attacks.

To these responses, I will ask you to dig deeper, to consider your values that remain unchallenged in your sense of civility and your normative ideals of expression of support. I will ask you to ask just as I will ask myself, what are the discursive moves through which the language of civility, empathy, and dignity persuade us into believing that empathy and solidarity are only reserved for our colonial masters while we turn away from the suffering amid us in the global South?

The oppressions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo will continue to carry on until we recognize the ways in which our emotions are manipulated by the hegemony of American exceptionalism.

Even more, the oppressions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo will carry on unless we recognize our own participation in American exceptionalism. Unless we start counting all violent deaths as great loss to humanity, we will continue to lend our suffering to the recirculation of more suffering.


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