After a tragedy, people sometimes show solidarity with the victims by calling themselves the victims.
- When Donald Trump abused immigrants, sympathetic people born in this country said, “I’m an immigrant, too.”
- After terrorist shootings at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, compassionate and caring people declared, “Je suis Charlie.”
- In 1963, when a hostile dictatorship surrounded the city of West Berlin, President John Kennedy told its citizens, “You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. . . . All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ ”
But native-born people aren’t immigrants, only the Charlie Hebdo staff were attacked in the shootings, and John Kennedy wasn’t a Berliner. No matter how much you or I (or Kennedy) might sympathize with the people who suffered inhuman assaults, they didn’t damage us anywhere near as much as they damaged the victims.
Supporting victims is good, no question. If you identify with them and their terrible situation, and if you want to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, I think you’re great. You have a warm heart and a passion for humanity.
And some “I’m a victim, too” sentiments fit better than others. After the 9/11 attacks on New York, the French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline “Nous sommes tous Américains”: “We are all Americans.” I suppose you can defend Le Monde’s headline, because the people who attacked Americans on 9/11 would have been just as happy to attack the French.
If you want to support victims, announce that you’re on their side. Donate your time and money to organizations working to help them. Join public demonstrations that protest their suffering.
But don’t say that you’re one of them.