I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it is morally wrong to mourn the burning of Notre Dame. I am also not going to tell you that anyone who mourns Notre Dame does not care for the many other tragedies which are taking place across the globe. Nonetheless, I find the amount of media attention and donations which have poured in over such a short period of time for the rebuilding of Notre Dame unsettling considering other such historical destructions, and even humanitarian issues, go unnoticed and disproportionately mourned every day.
On April 15th, a fire raged the Notre Dame and a fire also broke loose in Jerusalem at the ancient Al-Aqsa Mosque. The flames threated a 2000-year-old section of the mosque, but luckily it was contained to the guard booth where it originated. Admittedly, this was a smaller fire, but this does not explain the lack of global outcry at the fact that the third holiest Islamic site after Mecca and Medina also caught fire. In recent history, countless historical Islamic sites have been destroyed with little to no global grief, whereas images of Notre Dame burning and people crying seemed to be everywhere this past week.
To provide further contrast, the fire at Rio de Janeiro's 200-year-old National Museum this past September destroyed the museum completely. There were no reports of injuries, but the loss to Brazilian science, history, and culture was incalculable, two of its vice-directors said. "It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America. We have invaluable collections. Collections that are over 100 years old," Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum's vice-directors stated. The loss of this museum has been described by Brazilian government officials as "a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory."
The fire was apparently a result of improper upkeep due to a lack of necessary government funding. But where were the tears for the Museu Nacional? Where were the donations? Journalist Simon Allison tweeted "[i]n just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame, in six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil's National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege."
Notre Dame has received over a billion dollars of unsolicited donations within days, whereas the UN regularly falls short of the donations which they directly request from the public for humanitarian causes. There seems to be something twisted in the fact that unsolicited money is being thrown at the rebuilding of this historic Catholic church, but the ruins of other historical sites and even the mass suffering of our fellow humans are perpetually lacking in monetary aid and sympathy.
The burning of Notre Dame is a tragedy and so is the fire at the Al-Aqsa, the burning of the Museu Nacional, the effects of war in Yemen, and, in my opinion, so is the disproportionate sympathy of the public. I'm not asking that you refrain from tears, sympathy, or donations towards Notre Dame; but rather I ask that you match this level of emotion with action towards change. We must put in the effort to educate ourselves and those around us about more than just what western media chooses to show us.
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