What Americans’ responses to the Iran-Iraq earthquake say about our country

Illustration by Yewei Wang

The earthquake that rocked the Iran-Iraq border on Nov. 12, killing at least 500 people and injuring over 7,000 others, has since been named the deadliest earthquake of 2017; its impressive magnitude of 7.3 made it one of the  five most powerful this year. The chaos barely took place a week ago.

So why aren’t more Americans talking about it?

The word “earthquake” trended on Twitter in the U.S. for a mere matter of hours before being replaced by words like “Roy Moore” and “Keurig.” Not even President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences toward victims of the disaster, despite finding time to post about the “failing” New York Times and to mock Kim Jong-un’s physical appearance.

Perhaps even more concerning were the themes present among the tweets that did address the catastrophe. Comments condemning the citizens of Iran and Iraq and referring to the earthquake as “karma” were as disturbing as they were prominent. The thoughts and prayers that Americans generally love to offer the world were hidden amidst the heartless tweets that blamed a natural disaster on the politics of the people whose lives it took.

Besides being downright inhumane, the implication that victims of the earthquake were in any way the cause of their own demise is rooted in xenophobia. The belief that America is somehow inherently better and its citizens worth more than those of other countries is a direct result of this harmful way of thinking.

Unfortunately, this mindset is nothing new. Whether because of discrepancies between ethnicities, religions or political viewpoints, Americans as a collective have been consistently hostile toward residents and descendants of the Middle East.

In a January 2016 survey conducted by Pew Research, it was found that 49 percent of Americans felt that at least “some” American Muslims were anti-American, despite also being U.S. citizens. For Republicans, this number was an even more troubling: 63 percent; for Democrats, 41 percent.

On the contrary, a 2017 Pew study observed 9 out of every 10 American Muslims described themselves as “proud to be an American.” Not only are non-Muslim Americans’ perceptions of Muslim-Americans ultimately false, they’re perceptions are based on thoughts lacking facts.

If an event as cataclysmic as the one that took place in Iran and Iraq last week wasn’t enough to snap Americans out of their bigotry even for a moment, then I fear that nothing may be. How can we brag about tolerance, inclusion and human rights while simultaneously disregarding a major loss of lives that didn’t look like ours?

Despite being a self-proclaimed “melting pot,” the U.S. seems to be baselessly afraid of diversity and inclusion, even when it comes to something as simple as expressing sympathy for countries who have just experienced massive devastation. Deliberately turning a blind eye to the most fatal earthquake of 2017 is simply another manifestation of the country’s overwhelming epidemic of xenophobia. And until the U.S. decides to trade its nationalism in for compassion, aftershocks of hatred will continue to follow tragedies like this one.

Rachel Terrell, Contributing Writer 

1 Comment

  1. Hello,Ilet me quote a poem from a famous iranian poet of thirteenth century and its translation
    بني ادم اعضائ يك پيكرند. كه در افرينش ز يك گوهرند
    Human beings are members of a whole. In creation of one essence and soul
    چو عضوي به درد اورد روزگار. دگرعضوهارا نماند قرار
    If one member is afflicted with pain. Other members uneasy will remain
    تو كز محنت ديگران بي غمي. نشايد كه نامت نهند ادمى
    If you have no sympathy for human pain. The name of human you can not retain

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