Yesterday the unthinkable happened. Terrorism was thrust upon Paris France and in an instant hundreds of people were dead or injured in a senseless attack. It is an event that thankfully most of us will never be able to fully grasp but that fact won’t and should’t stop us from trying.
My family was having dinner in a restaurant as the attacks were happening. This restaurant has televisions hanging everywhere, each showing a different sporting event. I asked our waitress if they ever tune one of the televisions to the news and she replied, "sorry, just sports" and then she asked me why I wanted the channel changed. She had no idea, having been at work since the late morning, what was happening in the Paris. When we explained about the terrorist attacks and that they were at this very moment still happening, she appeared unfazed. I was saddened by her response but I understood that she has grown up in a world where this sort of violence is frequent and customary. We continued to get our news through social media and watched the situation worsen by the moment. I began to look around the room and wonder what happening to the world that I grew up in, the world that would stop in moments like this one and reflect - not just until the next story came along but for days and weeks. I don’t believe that humanity should cease to exist every time crazy people infect the world with their insanity, we all need to continue to live our lives. Still, the two thoughts conflict for me and I felt reminiscent for a time where I would have looked up and witnessed a community response to the events happening in the world.
Late last night I cancelled the World Diabetes Day post that was scheduled to run on Arden’s Day today because it contained the words "celebrate" and "happy”. I did so with a measure of sadness as I thought about how much effort the diabetes community puts into raising awareness for type 1 and type 2 diabetes each year. “I can't believe these two days are intersecting", I thought as I placed my head on the pillow only mostly comfortable with my decision to wait until next week to run the content.
Today I woke and witnessed a disagreement online that I must admit that I could never see coming. Passionate supportive people who both completely agree with one another were fighting about how they choose to recognize today and their anger and vitriol was escalating. Their words are what led me to write this piece and to recolor the Jean Jullien art in World Diabetes Day blue.
I witnessed people online devastated by terrorism this morning and as in most situations where you are ultimately powerless but determined to make a difference, we do what we can to show our support. Many people applied overlays to their social media avatars using the colors of the French flag. Not just beautiful to see as your timeline streams but spiritually helpful as you struggle to make sense of what happened yesterday. This is a simple act in social media that we can all agree is called for on a day like today. A small yet powerful message that says that while I may be unable to act personally, I feel on a global level as a human being. This act when aggregated truly makes a difference. A small gesture that joins with other small gestures to create a huge and meaningful statement. Somewhat ironically, this is exactly the impact that we hope our diabetes advocacy will bring.
Je suis Paris
Then I saw the people who live each day with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, people who have put all that they are into preparing for World Diabetes Day. These people are also deeply touched by Paris yet can't shake the feeling that today was their chance to say to the world, “please take a moment to understand what life with diabetes brings to the people who are affected”. It was our day to beg the world…
- Please stop using diabetes as the punchline for your jokes.
- Please understand that insulin keeps me alive while simultaneously trying to kill me.
- Please hear how sad, drained and beaten I am even though I won’t show you.
- Please FDA, stop thinking of continuous glucose monitors as a luxury.
- Please insurance, cover my drugs and supplies.
- Please someone take this day and focus for a moment on the world wide tragedy that my family happens to be trapped in, through no fault of their own.
Therein lies the the problem today. Diabetes is a world wide tragedy but you just can’t say those words in the face of another world wide tragedy like the one that occurred in Paris yesterday. You just can’t and you probably should’t. Yet I wonder in the same breath how do we shut down the desire to take the opportunity? How can we sit on our hands when this was to be the day people were going to be open to listening, to acting? How do you do that when you need a cure so badly that you want to cry almost all of the time? How do you do that when it is your child, mother, husband and friend that you are banging this drum for? How did terrorism effect diabetes advocacy and cause great people all who live with this chronic illness to turn on one another on the very day that was set aside for them to unite. All we wanted to do today was speak, to reach others and say please see diabetes for what it is and help if you can. Understand if you can’t help. Advocate for me and please spread this message beyond those who already understand it far too well. Today feels like the day that it is possible to reach a person who would make a diabetes joke offhandedly and help them to understand just how egregiously they misunderstand a life with diabetes.
You may believe that it is in bad taste to say Happy World Diabetes Day to someone today, you may not. You may wish that your friend’s avatars were blue yet understand that they are adorned in the colors of the French flag. Perhaps you are feeling like your opportunity has been stolen and at the same time know that it is inappropriate to make that statement when people’s lives have been stolen. What all of of this means is that two unthinkable tragedies have met and the honest truth is that they are both terrible. Trying to judge one against the other is a futile act. You can try to make an argument for one side or the other but really, what would that accomplish besides diminishing something that you don’t want to diminish. The only real answer today is to live and let live, which if you think about is a thought that would have saved not just the people of France but everyone who has ever been touched by violence. The best thing to do today is act as you wish the world would, with peace, understanding and humanity for all. Live and let live because judgement always leads to a ruling and we don’t need to be ruled - not on this day or any other.