So I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit the past couple of weeks, knowing that this blog post was due and I’d soon have to decide on a topic. That struggle continued until this past weekend. Obviously I’d much rather write to you about something cheery like how the Irish have the cutest accents and there’s a bookshop in Dublin called The Winding Stair that is simply magical, but this isn’t about what I want. And that theme of responsibility vs. desire is something that will carry through this revelation of a 19-year-old Kentucky nothing who has just come in contact with what it means to be a global citizen.
First I must start by saying that I was not in Paris this weekend; I was there just a month ago (almost to the day) with my parents. This past weekend I spent in Dublin with one of my best friends, fulfilling yet another lifelong dream by visiting Ireland. Friday was the day we decided to visit the Cliffs of Moher (wow), and just as we began our journey back to Dublin on the train the first two Facebook posts about the attacks were posted. There was a space between those posts and when all the responses flooded in that I can describe only as blank airtime—a moment similar to a television program suddenly stopping and leaving nothing but an eerie quiet where noise used to be. I didn’t quite know how to take it; even after finding out everyone was safe, there was both a terrible fear for what had happened and also an incredible relief for the safety of my friends and myself.
What was just as terrifying as these tragic acts though was what I saw on our way back to Harlaxton. While riding the Underground back to Kings Cross I sat across from a young couple, not much older than me. I watched as they shared a newspaper between them, and in turn, got to see how casually they were able to flip through images of the missing and dead. People with faces and names and stories coolly and literally flipped through, carrying as much weight as the paper itself did. This was just as painful, at least to me, as hearing and reading about the attacks themselves. Because I could no longer say that it was just the people who committed these acts who lacked humanity, it was normal people too—people like this young couple, people like me.
I have never realized the extent of how completely unaware and ignorant I was to world events until now. It is so easy to push away all the sorrowful compassion when you’re physically removed from where it is all taking place. It is so incredibly—frighteningly—simple to ignore all the bad when you don’t have names and faces to search for when things like this happen. But that isn’t okay. And even now I am struggling with this. Even with something so close to me, even with the names and the faces of my classmates swirling in my mind—what could have happened to them, what did happen to people just like them, just like me—I am still fighting my instinct to brush off this grief and turn back on the numbness I got so accustomed to wearing at home. As much as I’d like to push this past weekend out of my consciousness—push it away from my everyday thinking and distance myself, physically and mentally, from it, I know I can’t do that. I am called to be a global citizen. Now, more than ever, we are called to be global citizens.
Being a global citizen isn’t for the faint of heart. Being a global citizen means pushing against all the parts of you that wish, selfishly, but quite humanly, to shut out the negativity and the bad. Being a global citizen means taking your part in the world—rejoicing over justice being served, speaking out when it is not, and grieving for moments like this one where it is easy to feel there is no justice. Being a global citizen is our responsibility, as humans, but specifically as Harlaxton Lions. We were each brought here for different reasons: some desired travel, some hungered for something new, some simply longed for this once in a lifetime opportunity because it was just that. But whatever the reason(s) that brought us each here, we all leave with the knowledge that we are responsible. We are a part of this planet and that does carry weight. This load—to care, to create change, to do—is not an easy one to bear, but that’s alright, because we bear it together.
Written by: Rachael Doyel