• Ryan Oliveira

On Extremes

First, I’d like to send my thoughts to the Parisians, who are picking up the pieces of a Mumbai-style terrorist attack. It was an attack on the liberty to enjoy life, whether it be a football match, a dinner with friends, or a death metal concert – the joie de vivre, as it were.

I am also extending my positive thoughts to those who escaped ISIL, traversing roads, ranges, and whatever else to escape what Paris experienced in their everyday. Especially now, with blood boiling at an all-time high, where we, as a news-obsessed American populace, are prone to flying into invective, conspiracy, and dismissal. It’s important to recognize that this attack attempts to accomplish two things: Terrorize the French and, by virtue of recent migrations that many dismissed, terrorize refugees who escaped the lands violently seized by ISIL, as evidenced in a refugee camp fire in Calais.

Among the primal and complex things that ISIL wants (and I would HIGHLY recommend reading the Atlantic article “What ISIS Really Wants”, dehumanizing reactions toward refugees, among mass casualties of those ISIL considers “infidels”, supports their apocalyptic endgame. Descending toward the irrational only makes one play their game on their twisted terms. We have to be better than that.

We also have to be better than ignoring what ISIL and groups like it (Boko Haram comes to mind) continue to perpetrate throughout the Middle East and Africa. I speak, of course, of media coverage that elevates America and the Western world (read: white) over violence against women in Nigeria or displacement of peoples in Syria, Lebanon, and slowly beyond. We must be wary of coverage and even assistance that, in subtext, expresses interest other than wholly human. How we do that is by starting small. Read up. Stop lumping individuals into a hive-mass that can easily be extinguished in your minds when some winter or reality-TV debacle invades the screen. Question what you see. Heck, attempt to understand what the other side desires, even if you disagree – and many, myself included, do. Don’t infiltrate communities with your own ideologies as if your own is infallible. That’s what fundamentalism is – regardless of religion or belief, fundamentalism represents an extreme interpretation that visualizes nothing but one’s presumed infallibility, immortality, infiltration, and outright elimination of anything that disagrees.

It is Holocaust and holocaust and to hold such horrors in hologram is…have we learned nothing?

I had the wonderful fortune – privilege, really – of hearing Maya Angelou speak at my undergraduate commencement. And her words ran through my ears and my blood like fiery syrup – that we are princes and princesses who have inherit this world with great responsibility to understand it and protect it. To not tolerate ignorance; in fact, quoth Ms. Angelou: “My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.” It is something I drilled into my students – still do, still would once I step up to the plate of teacher – that shrugging off other cultures or one’s own beliefs as “I don’t know” or “It’s not my concern” is tantamount to selfish ignorance. It is the willingness not to know and it is the code by which we destroy someone else without need of an arm – though having the arm ensures the destruction. It’s what we do in our own backyards; just look at the countless accounts and articles calling out universities on their unsympathetic responses to racially and sexually charged crimes. (Seriously, don’t be ignorant: Read up on them.) It’s what hotblooded would-be jingoists do when they burn refugee camps instead of campaigning for their rights to exist. It’s what apocalyptic followers believe when they burn villages and villagers to the ground – from the Crusades, to Charleston Churches, to coach seats above the Middle East, to clubs and cafes in Baghdad, in Palestine, in Paris, to…whatever the next chaos.

But let’s not play their game.

Let’s not reduce ourselves to memes that jump themes and infest our thoughts with immediate, but near-sighted conspiracies or puppet regimes or whatever the fuck we think passes for not-my-concern and someone-will-take-care-of.

Let’s start with not making the other so other anymore. Refuse to see refugees as lumped threats and lift them up as needing relief. They’ve been war-torn for most of their lives; you’ve only had the seen a rip in their time.

Let’s read up facts and figures from all sides rather than throwing up signs of belief that mean nothing to non-believers – no intellectualizing or downsizing arguments that only to serve to further dehumanize. Dehumanizing for the sake of humanizing – think of how fucked up that sounds.

Let’s check our contributions - and there are many, whether they be passive allowances to police brutality in states or how we support the friend-of-our-enemy-who-is-now-our-backstabbing-friend political gaming with tax dollars and Twitter followers - to Ignorance’s ignobility. Be honest: We’ve placed Ignorance on a throne rather than seating Insight and Imagination and Information and Innovation and Intellect at a round table. It ain’t equal.

Let’s create history rather than repeat it. Those textbooks are heavy enough – and weighted with enough ignorance, too much in this day and age and era and epoch – to have them turned into murder sermons and lethal weapons again.

Let’s play a smarter game. Maybe a longer game.

But let’s play a stronger game of embracing that which is us and yet not us. To provide better examples of humanity than fundamentalists will ever Megiddo-ize.

People just wanna live.

And those who would rather preach Ignorance and perpetrate death?

Such living begs consequences.

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Ryan Oliveira

Ideas.  I'm full of them.

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