Paris, Beirut, and Precarious Life

I think it is safe to say that I was not expecting Butler to even touch on politics, as the beginning of the reading seemed to me almost as a memoir on his experience with loss and grieving.  I have never read or seen someone put an abstract concept so eloquently into words. For someone who has experienced grieving, it was quite fascinating to be able to read these words that you never thought you’d be able to put on paper before.

Anyway: I was instantly able to compare his thoughts on grief and violence to the recent wave of racism and anti-islamic sentiments that has arisen in Western nations and countries around the world in the shadows of the recent attack on Paris and Beirut.  Butler writes,

“Various terror alerts that go out over the media authorize and heighten racial hysteria in which fear is directed anywhere and nowhere, in which individuals are asked to be on guard but not told what to be on guard against; so everyone is free to imagine and identify the source of terror. The result is that an amorphous racism abounds, rationalized by the claim of “self-defense.”” (39)

I’d like to unpack this notion that Butler has stated.  Recent refugee movement from Syria has created the political idea that the Syrian refugees seeking safe territory are the ones to blame for these inhumane attacks on society.  It is interesting that westerners seek to pit Syrian refugees at the root of these attacks when they are running from the same thing that we are.  The idea that we seek to shame them for ISIS in their homeland, when not one of us would choose to live in a land in which they flee from.  These notions of blame come from the idea of Butler’s, that when people are left to freely identify the root of terror, it leads to racism, or as we know it today: anti-islam.   It seems to be that placing these sentiments against the refugees from Syria is exactly what ISIS wanted from westerners, and it looks like they are getting exactly that.

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