I’m subscribed to both The New York Times and The Washington Post. I have the apps downloaded on my phone and every morning I dutifully scroll through my daily briefing, but most days, that’s about as far as I read. As I continue with my day, I am guilty of both not giving a second thought to the morning’s atrocities and readily discarding periodic push notifications from the news apps. Unfortunately, this superficial dedication to the world is one shared by many like me, who are privileged enough to not be at the center of a daily headline; to not be in the middle of the world’s latest failure.
I wish I didn’t have to constantly be horrified at my own apathy. I wish I didn’t live in a world so fundamentally screwed up that human suffering isn’t enough to incite a visceral reaction. But I do live in this world, and everyday I see nightmarish events play out one after the other on the innumerable screens making up my life.
The latest horror I am guilty of overlooking is that of Sudan. The crisis was first brought to my attention through an Instagram story. I barely looked at the post for two seconds before tapping at my screen to move on to the next thing someone deemed important enough to share. I wish I could say I cared about it off the bat, but truth be told, I barely flinched.
Sudan seemed like an ambiguous idea. I had no imagery to assign to it, and certainly no emotional connection to tag it with. I remember thinking something like, “Geez, that sucks,” and moving on. But the next day, and the day after, I saw it again. People I knew with family and friends caught in the middle of a horribly depraved situation were trying desperately to show me, and those like me, that people were hurting.
Something finally clicked in my mind, and I hate that it took so much for me to see what was happening as deserving of my attention, but I finally did. The startling lack of humanity in my own actions is embarrassing, but not unique. The over-saturation of grief and civil degradation has forced many into selectively caring about fellow humans and their plights; the mind can only take so much pain, so we callously choose who most deserves our hearts. But at the same time, we sacrifice a little bit of our humanity. I didn’t care about Sudan until people close to me cared, until I could identify a personal connection. It shouldn’t be like that; the mass infliction of pain should incite a deep-seated rage in each one of us, as it should have in me.
As the presence of the crisis grew and the so-called “blue storm” swept social media, people slowly grew into their own rage at the mistreatment of a nation. As they saw friends and beloved celebrities change their avatars, they quickly followed suit, engaging in a communal sympathy. Seeing this happen has been relieving in a sense, because finally people are seeing what needs to be seen for the sake of saving a people. But on the other hand, it instills in me a fear that this is just another bandwagon craze, that as soon as the next major thing happens, people will move on; tapping away at the screen of life, briefly experiencing the next story — leaving behind Sudan and an unsolved problem.
“As a Muslim woman, it’s not only my responsibility to care, but to be vocal in my awareness. While the Sudanese are my brothers and sisters in Islam, they are my brothers and sisters outside of religion as well. While it is our duty as Muslims to come together in solidarity against cultivated injustices, we should NOT fight alone. Anyone is eligible to spread awareness, donate, pray, and overall be [of] greater benefit [to] the Sudanese people.” tweet
In an attempt to thoroughly cure my own apathy, I made an effort to understand why those close to issue (and even those not so close) saw the importance in fostering a more caring public.
A particular friend of mine, Mesoun Hassan, a Sudanese refugee, left me with an especially profound piece of wisdom: “The conflict in Sudan is much more than a political issue and has deep historical roots in global affairs and Western perception of African disparities. When we choose to advocate for Sudan, we are openly signing the pledge to say that we care about humanitarian issues that are similar, or have similar beginnings, as well.” Making an active decision to care about people, about a country halfway around the world is choosing to access the very roots of our own humanity.
Another friend of mine, who wishes to remain nameless, shared a similar sentiment: “As a Muslim woman, it’s not only my responsibility to care, but to be vocal in my awareness. While the Sudanese are my brothers and sisters in Islam, they are my brothers and sisters outside of religion as well. While it is our duty as Muslims to come together in solidarity against cultivated injustices, we should NOT fight alone. Anyone is eligible to spread awareness, donate, pray, and overall be [of] greater benefit [to] the Sudanese people.”
I implore of you to look past the two-dimensional nature of your screen and face the reality of the pain currently being felt by the innocents of a nation. Men, women, and children are experiencing traumas they are unlikely to forget in their lifetimes. An awareness of the ongoing problem, and a willingness to hold on to every shred of empathy we can muster for as long as the people of Sudan need us, will let the transgressors know that the people of Sudan are not alone.
The United Nations was able to pull out of Sudan because they were under the impression it could be done quietly, that no one would care if they focused their energy elsewhere. We must show them how devastatingly wrong they were. In maintaining a universal passion for supporting Sudan, we become an unavoidable force, and world powers will have no choice but to concede.
No matter what we do, we cannot forget.