The Time to Change the Narrative

Such a privilege to have wonderment – to be able to experience life, make ironic jokes about first world problems, separate ourselves from the troubles of the world, and to ignore that which makes us uncomfortable. Because we can decide to do so.

We have the luxury to decide.

How much in this life have even the most considerate of Americans taken for granted? Clean drinking water; the sanctity of burial grounds; the general understanding of the differences between fact, fiction, and opinion; the faith that, differences of opinion aside, your nation is moving forward and not backward; the trust that even if you don’t agree with certain policies, your basic human rights will always be protected because you’re an American, and damn it, that’s what this country was built upon…kind of.

We’re a compassionate race, but we’re victims of the greed and lust that have overcome our leaders. This is nothing new, but just because it’s the way things have always been, doesn’t mean it should be allowed to continue.

But we can’t start from scratch. We don’t get a do-over. We have to fix the situation that we ourselves have created. We cannot blame leaders or factions or religion…we are all personally responsible for the lives we lead. Only by first understanding and assuming that responsibility can we start to fix anything.

The situation in Aleppo has left many of us feeling helpless, myself included. Many of us want to help, but don’t know how or where to start. Some of us have donated to relief funds without knowing if our money will ever get to the people who need it. Others have attempted to spread awareness of the issue through social shares and word-of-mouth. But many of us also were so full of misplaced fear that just months earlier, we fought to keep these refugees out of our own country on the grounds that one of them might be a terrorist.

Our fear of a what-if situation overshadowed the atrocities of a very real, active, and deadly situation on the other side of the world.

So, where do we go from here? How can we prevent this from happening again?

Fixing this is, by no means, a simple undertaking. With each passing generation, the struggle grows exponentially more difficult. Today, the hatred that we’re fighting against goes back to the beginning of civilization. The wars we’re losing lives to are based on historical vendettas, and are driven by opportunistic and egotistical world leaders and corporations.The problems we’re trying to solve feel like uphill battles because at every turn, we’re upsetting or alienating a new group.

In our own country, the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests at Standing Rock are prime examples of this. These people have risen up because their grievances were never adequately addressed by the people who spent decades oppressing them. The problem with this is that the “oppressors,” those who enslaved Africans or killed the Native Americans, are long gone. However, the impact of their actions are still felt today, albeit systematically, i.e. less obviously to the general public.

I know it’s hard to put any of this into perspective. With mass loss of life, there will always be an emotional separation. It’s almost a survival instinct – we wouldn’t be able to function with the weight of the world sitting on our shoulders. It’s easier to find solace in something mindless. It’s more relatable for us to complain about our own petty and inconsequential grievances while we sit in our air-conditioned office buildings. Just this morning, my biggest frustration was that the tracking number for my Kylie Jenner lip kit wasn’t working properly. There’s a reason that same Kylie is currently trending on Facebook for an outfit she wore, and her sister is trending for maybe, possibly, but probably not cheating on her husband.

But in the words of Kourtney Kardashian, “There’s people that are dying.”

Now, we’re inundated with news and articles that fail to inform, don’t help the situation, and even actively hurt it. Journalistic integrity isn’t a thing worth being concerned over anymore. Fake news sites are allowed to thrive and spread damaging untruths in the name of getting clicks to their websites. Readers today don’t know how or care to fact-check anything they read or hear – they instead choose to simply react.

It’s easy to say that raising awareness for an issue is a cop-out, that you’re not really doing, accomplishing, or helping anything. I disagree, though. What if for every hate-filled voice overtaking the internet, there was one of positivity? For all the diversity in the world, or even in this country, if we would all stop and listen to someone’s perspective – or if we at least had access to it – we could change the narrative.

And the narrative matters.

The narrative is all we have. The stories we tell today are the ones that will define our generation. The wave of anger, dissatisfaction, ignorance, and stubbornness that we’ve all grown accustomed to is breaking us down as a nation. The words we say impact those around us. The perspectives we share will enlighten and save us. It’s not naive to think that words can impact real change – it’s a good place to start.

It’s not about America or Syria. It’s not about Trump or Putin or Assad or Obama. It’s not about Muslims or the Pope or the Jews or terrorists.

It’s about people. It’s about humanity.

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