People & Places

YWP: ‘We Don’t Care’

About the Young Writers Project

YWP only green-webYWP, an independent nonprofit based in Burlington, Vermont, engages young people to write and use digital media to express themselves with clarity and power and to gain confidence and skills for the workplace and life. YWP publishes about 1,000 students’ work each year here, in newspapers across Vermont, on Vermont Public Radio and in YWP’s monthly digital magazine, The Voice. Since 2006, it has offered young people a place to write, explore and connect online at youngwritersproject.org, which has only one rule: Be respectful. For more information, please contact YWP executive director Geoffrey Gevalt at [email protected].

Lonna Neidig, a junior at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, says she has always wanted to write something “comparing how we process tragedies that happen in European countries versus how we process tragedies that happen in Middle Eastern countries. I was really inspired to finally sit down and write when I saw a headline that vaguely touched on the bombing of a mosque in Syria and looked through the comments which all echoed the same message, the Muslims are inherently bad people and are responsible for their own suffering.

“I think back to the tragedy in France with the bombing and the outpouring of love and support and how we could change our profile pictures to match the flag, and how nothing remotely similar is happening when it comes to these tragic events in the Middle East, and it makes me really upset. There are children inhaling chlorine gas asking nurses if they’re going to live, and we tell refugees to stay out and away when they have nothing to do with the war tearing through their country. It’s just always been infuriating for me, and I couldn’t just sit in silence anymore.”

Lonna Neidig
Lonna Neidig is a junior at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans. Courtesy photo

We Don’t Care

By Lonna Neidig

Click below to hear Lonna read her work.
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European tragedies call for changing profile pictures to the colors of a flag.
We rally together in times of need and support each other with pixels.
We color our faces to match the flag of those who have fallen.
There are vigils. Candles. Prayers muttered on knees and clenched hands.
We tell our loved ones how much we love them.
How thankful we are for them.

Middle Eastern tragedies call for silence.
We blame Islam.
We blame black presidents.
We blame everything and offer no sympathy.
There are no vigils. No candles. No prayers muttered on knees and clenched hands.
We say nothing.
Nothing.

European tragedies call for blaming rising Muslim populations.
Facebook comments rally together, chanting over and over again,
“This is why we cannot mix cultures.”
“Islam is a faith of war.”
“We cannot let extremists into our country!”
“Make America great again!”
We light our candles and paint our faces once more.
We hold vigils and pull loved ones closer.
We gather with tear-stained faces because our aunts and uncles and cousins might have been in that airport.
We gather and pray.
We speak words of love and acceptance and luck and joy.
And we prevail.

We don’t care about Aleppo.
We don’t care about Syria.
We don’t care about innocent blood being spilled by the terrible red gallon.
“Bomb them!”
We don’t care that we mistakenly blew up a mosque with civilians praying there.

We don’t care about the 57 Syrians who were having vigils, lighting candles, muttering prayers on bent knees and clenched hands with tear-stained faces.
We don’t care that they have loved ones.
We bombed them.
And we bring war to them.
And push them aside.
Our silence and complacency whispers,
“We do not care about Muslims.”
“Stay in war-riddled countries.”

We don’t care that innocent people are dying.

Check out the April issue of The Voice, the Young Writers Project monthly digital magazine. Click here.

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  • Mary Alice Bisbee

    Well said, young writer! There are many Muslim haters in our country, unfortunately, and it seems to be getting worse with all the horrible tragedies around the world. Keep up the good work of letting your elders know how truly blind many of us are to the holocausts that are going on today in the Middle East and elsewhere.