The Destruction We Disregard
At Packer, we are given a unique and exceptionally influential platform to advocate for issues and crises. Not only are we situated within the epicenter of what many would consider a global and highly connected city, but the general fact of attending an institution like Packer provides us with the tools to raise awareness about national and international issues. With the privilege to decide what issues we deem most crucial and pressing, we need to not only acknowledge this power, but also to be significantly more mindful in how we use it.
In late August, residents of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas lived in fear and anticipation of a reported hurricane that was rumored to arrive shortly, bringing with it severe devastation. On August 24th, 2019, and in the days following, people living on these tropical islands awaited news about Hurricane Dorian, a brewing and ominous storm whose severity of damage was unpredictable. On September 1st, the hurricane slammed into the Northern Bahamian Islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama, changing the physical structure and identity of the tropical paradise almost immediately. With winds at 185 miles per hour, sustained for periods of 24 hours at a time, little land was able to evade destruction. By the end of the storm, Dorian was declared the worst natural disaster the Bahamas had ever experienced, and one of the worst storms to ever hit the Atlantic coast.
That being said, no one, especially within the Packer community, has voiced much concern over the damage that occurred, and without mass humanitarian help, it will be very difficult for these areas to recover. The distress is exacerbated by the fact that there are limited resources on many islands, and that people have already lost the majority of their belongings.
As students at Packer, we are given the privilege to not only be able to avoid experiencing atrocities like these, but to also take advantage of our voice and platform to raise awareness and help those affected. However, with this privilege, there comes responsibilities.
At Packer, we are often quick to call ourselves “woke” after displaying extensive care for a specific issue that is “trending,” however, we do not realize how many issues we leave unposted about and unconsidered. In other words, while we pour our hearts out advocating for the all the same issues as our peers, showing exceptional support for certain problems, there are so many that don’t even get mentioned. I bring up the topic of Hurricane Dorian because, compared to past hurricanes and natural disasters in the United States and other countries, Packer and its students have not put in as much effort for garnering support and awareness for Dorian. For example, after Hurricane Maria in 2017, there were announcements in chapel, posts on instagram, and an all around more aware stance on the issue than was shown for Dorian.
Whether or not we intend to, by being selective of the issues we post about and discuss, we invalidate the topics left unacknowledged. While it is frustrating and unproductive when students post about an issue on social media and then fail to follow up with that issue in spaces like the CCEs or actually change their rhetoric, by strictly condemning the use of social media without follow up action, we disable students from ever making any progress in bringing awareness to important issues.
In April, when the Notre Dame Cathedral burned down in Paris, France, the entire world donated around $835,000 within the first week of the church being destroyed, and Packer students’ actions paralleled this worldwide selective care. My entire instagram feed was flooded with photos of people who demonstrated ostensible support by posting old vacation photos or googled images of the site. However, that same week, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, was burned in Jerusalem and, after continuous global support was given to Notre Dame, the world was silent over this tragedy. A notable part of the issue is that the burning of the mosque was not as heavily covered in the news as the burning of Notre Dame, perhaps because of the presence of religious bias in our news sources. In the media, minority religions are marginalized and misrepresented every day, so by letting the burning of this extremely significant holy site in Jerusalem get drowned out by the events in Paris, we feed into the cycle of religious bias that keeps so many issues in the dark. It is our job, however, to keep track of these issues and present a balanced representation in our everyday activism, even if the only support we give to the issue is a simple post on social media.
Though simply posting offering sympathy does not directly aid the 70,000 people who lost their homes in the Bahamas, or those who lost their place of worship in Jerusalem, awareness and education is half of the battle. Being able to recognize the importance of using our platform to spread information, while acknowledging that it must be accompanied by action, is something we need to better understand at Packer. Currently, there is a culture of crucifying people who post on their social media about an issue and do not pursue further action. We have now fallen into the trap of not posting about the issues we care about at all, and thus doing nothing, for fear of getting scurintized.