11/19/2015 11:12 EST | Updated 11/19/2016 05:12 EST

It Is Not Wrong To Mourn For Paris

lots of candles in front of the ...
lots of candles in front of the ...

I've been told that we care too much for the people of Paris. That our outpouring of sympathy ignores the fate of other countries, that we are too selective in our grief. We find it so easy to stand with our old ally, while places like Beirut and Nigeria burn. We are hypocrites for caring so much about France. That's what I've been told.

But it's false. We care about France because we are human.

We live in a world where thousands die each day from violence. Would we open ourselves to the rawness of each death, day after day, year after year? That would grind our hearts into dust, rob us of any empathy at all. And so we move from day to day, acknowledging and caring, but not fully engaging, until something slips under our shields and really gets to us. And then all our sorrow, all our outrage at how casually human lives are squandered, all this rushes to the surface and we respond. We stand up. And the world changes.

Today we mourn for Paris. A few months ago we mourned for a lone Syrian boy, washed up on the beach. Just one child, emblematic of all that has gone wrong in this world. Other children died that day, but Alan Kurdi's death is what reached us. Sometimes it just resonates.

Here in Canada, we all know Paris. Most of us have friends and family there, or have been there ourselves. Paris is familiar, a small part of normal. This is not about racial bias or big media pulling the strings. This is about personal perspective. I'm just some guy, but I've walked the streets they pulled the bodies from. I ate in cafes just like the one that filled with bullets. Sometimes it just resonates.

These moments of solidarity are rare and powerful, and they are a chance to shine a brighter light. We mourn the dead, but we can still help the living. We stand with Paris, but from here we can see the world.

From here, we can see the countries that aren't as familiar, but face the same danger. From here we can see the dispossessed, fleeing their homes and cities as refugees. From here, we can even think of how we treat our own. Who have we welcomed, and who have we ignored? A great light is shining in the world. The reason is terrible, but the outcome doesn't have to be.

To the cynics: You may not care for Paris like I do, you may be uncomfortable with France and her imperialist history. You can point to other people who lost their lives, and by all means, help tell their story. Every story deserves to be told.

But do not say that this outpouring of love and sympathy is wrong. It is never wrong to care about innocent lives, or to stand against violence. Instead, see this love for what it is. A beginning.

I stand with Paris, and my eyes are open. I stand with Syria, and those who seek a new life in my country. I stand with Lebanon, still wondering if they are forgotten. My energy is not reserved for one place on earth, or one colour of skin. I stand with Paris, but I know there are tragedies each day. My heart is heavy, but I am not afraid to stand up.

And I know we will overcome.


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