I'd like to introduce you to the Unpopular Opinion Puffin.

His job is to be cute and distract you from the stuff I'm about to say that might not sit right with you.

puffin.jpg

I've seen a lot of stuff online since Friday night, pitting East vs. West. Think pieces, statuses, tweets, all with more or less the same message:

"Why do you care more about what happened in ________ than you do about _______?"

"Where was your outrage when ________ happened, or _________?"

The general consensus, on both sides, is that the other side cares more about its own people than those in a different part of the world. The answer, for me, is simple.

Of course we do.  And that's okay.

I speak French. I lived in France. I work in a French school, and I'm surrounded with the language and culture and people of France every day.  I've studied their history, art, and literature, eaten at sidewalk cafés--just the summer before last, with my own family. I have ridden trains out past the Stade de France, taken the Métro to La Place de la République. And, perhaps most importantly, I know people there. People with whom I have studied--high school, college, grad school. People who attended my wedding. Friday night I waited and breathed sigh after sigh of relief as friends in Paris checked in as "safe." As alive.

Yes, this felt like a more personal attack to me. Because it was. It simply was.

On a wider scale, there are so many cultural parallels between the US and France. Two Western worlds, whose revolutions in the 18th century inspired and influenced one another. We've been allies for ages. We've welcomed each other's expats. We love their food and wine. They love our movies and music (and our donuts, whether they want to admit it or not). We understand each other in a global way, despite discord on what it means to be polite and how to hold a fork and knife. It's human to draw closer to those whom we understand, even if it doesn't make sense (see: white people not feeling unsafe every time a twentysomething white dude enters a school classroom or movie theater, even though they're kind of Public Enemy #1 in both situations).

The West is to blame for everything unfolding in the Middle East; I know this. The political borders we've drawn arbitrarily over time, the chaos we have left in the wake of wars, has gotten us to this point. And most every other day, I gladly shoulder the guilt and sadness and outrage. But can we have, like, a few days to be sad about just this one thing? Do the senseless deaths in France matter more to us than the senseless deaths in the Middle East? No. But they might hurt a little more. And given the state of Twitter since Friday, the same seems true in the other direction.

But I don't think that makes us bad people. I think it just makes us people.