A lot of us are still struggling to process the events surrounding Facebook Live serial killer Steve Stephens last Sunday. The random, cold-blooded murder of Robert Goodwin Sr., a grandfather coming home from Easter supper, was one that shocked and saddened many people in this country. But as the tributes for Goodwin came in through social media, so, too, came a toxic and counterproductive sentiment regarding this Easter execution.
There were some people out there who actually tried to downplay Mr. Goodwin’s death by pointing out that there were other, more deadly tragedies happening around the world. Sample tweets include the doozies, “You all are crying over the Steve Stephens murder case but aren’t saying anything about the kids losing arms in Syria” and “People are shocked and horrified by #SteveStephens livestream murder but Syria, Iraq, Dafur, Afghanistan, and 20 other conflicts mean nadda.”
This isn’t the first time that certain people have expressed these sorts of statements. Whenever some international event happens and people band together with the attacked nation, someone always has to come in and criticize people for not focusing on something else happening in another country, more specifically in African countries like Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria. I can’t have been the only person to have noticed this trend, especially as terror attacks have become more prevalent over the past 5 years.
I understand that these places have been historically abused, and the problems occurring in these places have been neglected by the majority of the larger world. It’s tragic, and we really do need to help these people and undo the damage to Africa that centuries of imperialism helped to cause. But admonishing people for not showing enough care and concern for the causes you want to bring attention to is not a very effective tactic to change that.
The fact of the matter is: people who do this need to hop straight off their high horses. You’re not superior to others just because what the national conscious is focused on doesn’t interest you. Contrary to what people like this may believe, the vast majority of humans have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time. People don’t have to devote every single second of their day on what you think they should. Yet this does not mean that people don’t care about these issues or aren’t doing work already to help solve them.
I’m guilty of this too. Heck, right now I’m criticizing criticisms. It’s like critception or something. But the difference is that I at the very least try to be solution-oriented with what I say. More importantly, I criticize constructively, not to just pat myself on the back. We don’t need a constant reminder that the world is messed up! What we need even less of, is people who are admonishing others for caring about one thing too much. It doesn’t make you more enlightened when you do these things. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to point out that things in this world are messed up. It looks intellectually lazy to stop at step one of the problem-solving process.
What this amounts to is another tool of the armchair activists. The types of people who spend all day criticizing others regarding social issues, but whom somehow cannot find anything constructive to add to the conversation.
We could play this game all day and night. While some people are worried about dead Syrians, they’re neglecting the widespread famine in South Sudan. Also, shame on them all for forgetting how messed up it is that instead of the Philippines government helping out drug addicts and getting them treatment, they are murdering them. Finally, how about in our own backyard, where people have neglected to be more mad about the fact that the (predominantly black) residents of Flint, Michigan, still do not have clean drinking water?
A lot of these issues are very complex, with many different moving parts, points of interest and underlying causes. If you want people to focus on those issues, do the work to truly understand them. People have to know why they should care before they actually do. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is. Merely mentioning that these problems exist will do nothing to help solve them, especially if the way you try to make others aware includes shaming them into getting behind your cause.