Caracotsios: We take care of our own

Julian Caracotsios, Columnist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






For most of my past, I’ve never been one for flags, ceremonies and rhetoric — the antidote to which being a healthy dose of sarcasm and satire. After all, it’s naive at best; might as well remain detached and spare yourself the trouble.

For many reasons, that attitude has begun to change. A few days ago, I was reminded of just how great that change has been. Some of you may have a hard time believing that the following is actually coming from me, but it is a reflection of a personal journey as much as it is a social critique.

It goes without saying that the Boston Marathon bombings shocked and appalled even the most cynical among us. Although at first I kept my usual distance, my blood began to boil when — more than once — I heard something like this: “The bombings were terrible, but this sort of thing happens all the time around the world, and we don’t care. We’re stuck in our own comfortable little bubble and don’t think about things outside of America.”

“We’re so ignorant.”

“Pass the Pellegrino. I’m totally moving to Europe.”

Logically, this seems to make sense. How could it not? Millions of people die slowly and painfully from starvation every year, others are sold into sex slavery and terrorist bombings are hardly anything new. But three deaths and roughly 200 injuries? It seems that only someone of incredible naivety and narrow-mindedness could justify the “inordinate” outpouring of aid, condolences and sympathy for something that is but a drop in the ocean of tragedies just because it happened to “us.”

If by now you’re infuriated and want to sock me straight in the face, good. It means you still have some blood pumping through your veins. However great it sounds on paper, in our hearts, we know that there’s something wrong with that argument.

This still leaves us with a bit of a dilemma: How do we justify that seemingly selfish in-group loyalty? Normally, we only think about this in a philosophy discussion section, but right now, it’s up close and personal. We are communal creatures and, although we have ideals, distance matters. The unavoidable fact of that matter is that our moral feelings do not extend universally in all directions. It’s different when it is right here at home, in our own country, in our own city, or in our own backyard. I simply could not share the feelings of my roommate who, being from Massachusetts, was not only shocked, but also fearful for his friends back home.

Cultivation of empathy is no easy task, but is certainly one to which we should aspire. However, to denigrate loyalty to those close to us does more harm than good. The flags, moments of silence, Facebook statuses, kind words and prayers from afar will not rectify the situation, nor will they undo what has been done, nor will they prevent it from happening in the future. They were never intended to. The disillusioned among us may denigrate them for being pointless, but, tell me, how can we possibly expect to ever do more if we are not willing to even show solidarity? This kind of cynicism is not only misplaced, but downright contradictory, since it takes us even further from the kind of universal empathy it espouses.

My wake-up call came last fall. A friend of mine volunteered for the President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and got tickets to his victory rally in Chicago on Election Night. I was never involved much, but I did vote that morning, so I figured, Why not? At the time I brushed it off as rhetoric and propaganda, but when I was there I felt a very strange desire to get up and do something that I had not felt in a long time. I never told any of my friends, but I still have vivid memories of that night. One, in particular, stands out to me. Walking away from the massive crowd, I turned back and saw a sea of confetti and American flags; a Bruce Springsteen song came on in the background that I’ve loved ever since and will never forget.

“We Take Care of Our Own.”

Start there, and move outward.

Julian Caracotsios is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at juliancaracotsios2014@u.northwestern.edu. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

Comments