I know this is going to come as something of a shock, but there has been a great deal of fuss made on social media in the past few days about a seemingly harmless matter. Who knew?
Some people, moved by the scenes and sounds of explosion and gunfire in Paris, have chosen to add a French tricolour flag to their avatars, or the Eiffel Tower/peace symbol. Others have decided not to do so. You’d have thought that would be the end of it, but hey, we’re talking about social media here. Everyone has to have an opinion, and as soon as a discussion starts, those opinions, like two magnetic north poles, shoot off to opposite extremes before you can say “140 character limit”.
It now seems that those who have flagged (I claim the coinage of “to flag”, another annoying mangling of a noun, like “to medal”) are racist, xenophobic, or simply uncaring about the dead in Syria, Lebanon, Kenya, Israel, Palestine, Yemen…
I have even seen people arguing that nobody did this in sympathy with the victims of the Rwandan genocide (which, for the slow of thought, took place in 1994, at which time hardly anyone had an email address, let alone a facebook or twitter or instagram account)!
These accusations then lead to counter-accusations, that those who are “militant non-flaggers” (there’s another phrase I should copyright!) are somehow heartless, or should just shut the f@#* up.
If you want to flag – great.
If you don’t – also great.
If you want to create alternative flags to show solidarity with Lebanese victims of terror (or Israeli, Syrian, Kenyan or whoever) – all power to your elbow!
I would like to make two things clear.
First – It is not xenophobic or racist to feel more keenly the impact of an event if it happens to someone with whom you have close ties – it is perfectly normal!
Let’s say there are two fatal road accidents in your town on the same day. You have never met either victim, but one lived in your road, you had many mutual friends and supported the same football team. I think it would be reasonable for you to be a little bit more moved about that death than the other one.
Second – Life is (as the people of Paris, Beirut etc have recently been reminded in the starkest possible way) far too short to create animosity over this.
OK – rant over. Thanks for listening.