Yesterday I spent my time after work looking for a frame of reference in which to situate an article I’d read about refugee “hunter” police in Bulgaria, who, in 2015, stop refugees walking through the country, which is obviously already no picnic, ask for their phones so they can’t record anything or get in touch with anyone, and then torture them – kick them “like footballs,” beat them with the ends of hammers.
I walk into a multi-million euro complex, past white linen tablecloths and perfectly polished silverware set up for conference, to edit an article about the refugees in Bulgaria who have nothing – and somehow even that is being taken. My settled-upon frame of reference – the fact that the nothing being taken from them, the little bit of life that is being beaten out of them, is not being taken by me, still feels flimsy.
My partner bikes to work and sits down at his desk as the news about Paris breaks. It’s just after 10 pm on a Friday, and even the fact that he’s working alone seems somehow coordinated: attacks are meant to catch people off guard; no one could come in and report about Paris because people need some time away from the news too – but the attackers knew that, and that’s why they chose to strike a friendly football match, a restaurant, a concert.
I was on Twitter about three minutes before the racist xenophobes popped up, blaming refugees and open borders for last night’s attacks in Paris, thinking that by coming to Europe they somehow brought the Syrian war with them. If we could somehow put an end to bloody attacks on innocent people just trying to live their lives with their families and friends, do they think would we have war refugees? Do people actually not realize this is precisely the type of thing that has caused these people to flee?
The provocative trolls were outnumbered, at least on Twitter, by the folks giving their safe locations to those stuck in the troubled areas, by those giving eyewitness accounts, those passing on news about taxi drivers turning off their meters, those condemning the attacks and sharing messages of solidarity with victims and their loved ones – but the others were – and still are – there for everyone to see and to read…and their way of thinking is the crux of the problem.
The one friend I have in Paris happens to be from the coastal Mediterranean city of Latakia, Syria. When we were in Istanbul together, we would clean the apartment while listening to Pink Floyd as loud as we felt like. The apartment in Uskudar ended up being demolished, but the techniques he showed me about cleaning like “throwing the water” never will be. We both always had time to make it look nice in there – at least as nice as we could.