Shining vividly against the darkening night sky and bathed in the colors of the Belgian flag, the Eiffel Tower stood tall Tuesday night as a remarkable symbol of European brotherhood — resiliency in the face of terror and shared democratic values. Yet, the support for Belgium after this week’s horrific terrorist attacks in the very heart of Western Europe did not stop there. Scrolling through various social media feeds and websites, I was overwhelmed by the statements and beautiful drawings of “Je Suis Bruxelles” by people of all nationalities, echoing the cries of “Je Suis Charlie” that became viral after the attacks in Paris this past November.

If one thing is for sure, our world certainly knows how to come together in times of tragedy, and I will proudly retweet any image supporting the survivors of the bombings in Brussels or change my Facebook profile picture to match the colors of the French flag. However, when six gunmen, members of Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, opened fire at an Ivory Coast beach resort on March 14 and left 16 dead bloodied bodies on the beach, where were our proclamations of “Je Suis Côte d’Ivoire?”

Though Brussels certainly saw the most violent acts of terrorism since the attacks in Paris, there have still been dozens of terrorist attacks, most widely unreported, since Nov. 13. In just the past month, bombings in Ankara and Istanbul have killed more than 40 people and left another 162 injured. Many of the injured were foreign tourists and civilians — the same type of victims in the various terrorist attacks on African countries in the past year.

In relation to countries such as the Ivory Coast and Turkey, media coverage can portray the United States as existing in an entirely different world. Yet, when Paris, the very bastion of liberty and equality, was attacked, it terrified us so much because it showed how easily such a tragedy could have happened here in our own country. We are reminded of Boston on April 15, 2013; we are reminded of New York on Sept. 11, 2001. We see pieces of ourselves in the frightened faces of Belgians fleeing through darkened subway tunnels and hear our own voices in the cries of a little French child crying outside the bombed soccer stadium. The world is a rapidly changing place, full of horrible people and events that we can only hope will never be repeated again, and we are scared. Thus, whenever one of our fellow democratic nations is attacked by forces that seem so different from us, we speak out to everyone that will listen, often in the form of social media, to assure both ourselves and our country that freedom, democracy and love will ultimately overcome all.

However, this method of thinking also contributes to the dangerous divide that still exists between wealthy Western countries and the rest of the world, or, in the example of what happened in the Ivory Coast, Muslim and non-Muslim countries. We must work to expand the media coverage of the tragedies that occur across all continents, as they are committed by the same kinds of terrorist groups that the United States is working toward exterminating. Rather than presenting all acts of terrorism, all horrible tragedies, on equal footing, the media sensationalizes any terrorist attack committed against a Western nation by a Muslim group because it fits into the narrative it wants to use to gain viewers and garner an extreme emotional response.

The same week Paris was attacked, stories about Boko Haram militants marching into the village of Baga, Nigeria, slaughtering more than 2,000 civilians and seizing control of the nation-state resurfaced because they hadn’t gotten the same amount of attention previously. Here in the United States, Africa is portrayed as a land where these types of killings are common, yet that aspect alone should amass even more scrutiny from the Western world. In terms of mass murder, how can one life be deemed more important than another?

In order to strengthen our understanding of groups such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS, we must realize that the Western-dominated media only present a miniscule number of the atrocities they commit. Yet, the human heart has no limit on the amount of love it can express. We don’t have to choose which tragedies to mourn, we can show solidarity with people of all countries. Because when there is a terrorist group slaughtering innocent civilians, choosing to uphold our stereotypical distinctions between Western countries and the rest of the world is harmful to both our duties as human beings and our national security.

We must not only show support for countries far away, but to our fellow citizens inside U.S. borders as well. The manner in which Western media covers terrorism only augments ignorance. Today, only 27 percent of Americans have a positive view of Muslim Americans, which is absolutely terrifying — seeing as Muslim Americans have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks committed by radical groups such as ISIS. Ignorance such as this leads to hatred and violence, which, judging by the state of the world right now, we don’t need any more of.

I wholeheartedly support “Je Suis Bruxelles” and “Je Suis Charlie,” but I also call for the inclusion of support for terrorism-torn countries that are cut off from the rest of the world due to lack of resources and corrupt governments. By educating ourselves on the horrible acts being committed beyond our bubble of Western capitalism, we can better aid and raise awareness for nations that are under risk of being completely taken over by dangerous radical groups.

Kaela Theut can be reached at

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