Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why I Changed My Profile Picture

At a very early age, my mom told me, "Don't discuss religion and politics with people."  She lived by this motto and up until this very day, I have yet to find out which presidential candidates she has voted for in different elections.  There were times when this would greatly frustrate me, but I have come to admire the wisdom she has exerted in withholding such information from me.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I appreciate being able to keep in contact with friends and family across the miles.  But, I can barely stand scrolling through my Newsfeed during election season because half of the posts make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  People are so bold when they can hide behind a screen.  In the wake of last night's terrorist attacks in Paris, it didn't take long for friends to start standing and preaching from their soapboxes.

A fellow mom had posted in our local MOPS group that a UT student studying abroad in Paris had not been accounted for.  I saw the request after midnight and begin praying for this young man I had never met and his family.  I prayed for the victims of this atrocious act, their families, and those that inflicted the violence.  I couldn't sleep.

Perhaps it was because on a very small scale, I understood the fear the country of France was experiencing.  Like most others, I remember exactly where I was when 9/11 happened.  Leaving my morning education class at the college library, I noticed a group of students huddled around the television in the lounge.  Current events were constantly streaming and we seldom paid any attention to them.  It struck me as odd that so many had congregated.  When I saw the second plane hit the two towers, my heart sank.  For the very first time in my life, I questioned my safety and the safety of my country.  Though I was in Iowa, thousands of miles away from New York, the rest of my family was in Texas.  I worried for them.  Later in the day, my parents called me and simply said, "We just wanted to make sure you were okay."  And I was.

A couple of years later, I was an exchange student in Granada, Spain.  I fell in love with Western Europe and all the cultures that it is comprised of.  That spring of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and took down the statue of Saddam Hussein.  My Spanish host family, most of my host country, and most of Europe, was completely appalled by our actions.  Shortly after, the peace corp was withdrawn from Morocco, and we were no longer allowed to visit.  I did not get to cross visiting Africa off of my bucket list.  We lived in a predominately Muslim area, and though I never feared for my wellbeing, my perspective had shifted because of the state our world was in.

When my American friends and I visited the market and vendors asked us where we were from, just to be safe, I would say, "Mexico."  And they believed me.  Obviously, this was only stretching the truth a little, since I grew up on the border and am, in fact, Mexican American.  Living among other cultures has a way of changing how you see things...which brings me to my point.

Webster's defines solidarity as unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest, mutual support within a group.  I chose to change my profile picture because I am standing with France.  I am praying for France.  On an extremely minute level, I have felt the uncertainly some of its citizens are feeling who were not directly harmed by the terrorist attacks, but now live in a world that has been turned upside down.  This wasn't the first time this has happened in this part of the world, even this year alone.

Does this mean that I have turned a blind eye to the people of Syria, or that I think attacks in Beirut that happened just before don't matter?  Absolutely not.  Am I deaf to the cries of Mizzou and other universities in my own country?  No, I am not.

But what do we do when we're weighing in on people's posts about such events?  We give "100 likes" to those we agree with, and we have endless arguments (ahem, discussions) with others that don't see things the way we do.  We search the internet for the perfect politically correct meme or article that couldn't possibly offend anyone, and we wait...for the applause of others.  The affirmation that we're such spectacular intellectuals and exude wisdom on every occasion.  When in reality, sometimes it comes across as self-righteous whining.

On one hand, it can be argued that all I can do from my border city to combat terrorism is pray.  The way I see it, it is the best thing I can do.  So I will continue to do just that.  My prayers are by no means exclusive.  "I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer." -Psalm 17:6  I know I am not alone in this.

Thus, my profile picture will serve as a constant reminder to me to pray not only for France, but for victims of terrorism everywhere, and those that commit the atrocious acts.  And I will make no apologies for it.