Anyone who has been on the internet in the past week has seen them: the countless posts on the death of Lt. Mu’ath Kassasbeh. Some people write long posts detailing their sadness and anger; some change their profile pictures to the picture of the smiling martyr; Others still simply share the hashtag #كلنا_معاذ (we are all Mu’ath). All of the posts seem to portray the same theme – the nation of Jordan is mourning the tragic death of a hero, a death that has united the country against ISIL and garnered heartwarming support from the international community. Amidst the chaos and anger that plagues Jordan, it is important for each person to reflect on their personal feelings towards the death of Lt. Kassasbeh, to take the time to mourn independently, and to ask themselves if the social media posts and signs of solidarity are representative of personal responses to the tragedy, or merely the result of pressure to conform to society’s expectations regarding mourning.
The problem with collective mourning is that it forces everyone to grieve in a standard way. The crier and the reflector, the person who believes in wearing black and the one who likes to wear color, the mourner of death and the celebrator of life, are all expected to act in a certain way, to show their solidarity through specific clothes, to cry at one time and remain composed at another It assumes that everyone in society has the same feelings on the tragedy, and that everyone expresses such feelings in the same way. Collective mourning assumes that the student who wears black cares more than the student who doesn’t, that the person who cried publicly is sadder than the one who reflected privately, and that the person who sulked for three days is more empathetic than the one who danced and partied the day after the tragedy. This is not always the case. Everyone sees death differently; everyone reacts to it differently; and when a family member or a close friend dies, people seem to understand and respect these differences. Why then, are we supposed to be unitary in our mourning of a hero?
This is not to say that unity in times like these is bad. In fact, it is necessary. Unity in the face of terrorism keeps us strong. But being united does not depend on us grieving in the same way. When death becomes more about how we portray our grief, when we care more about what we will wear to school to show our sadness than about actually reflecting on our feelings, mourning becomes another societal standard, our grief, another façade. How many of us took the time to really think, reflect, pray, or cry for Mu’ath? Personally, I rushed to update my facebook status long before I knew anything about his life. I wore my hatta and black shirt long before I shed my first tear. I spread the word about the video long before I processed the news myself.
Perhaps I am being too critical. After all, the poems at school meeting were heartwarming, the signs of solidarity comforting, and the social media posts thought provoking. However, it seems to me that our focus as a society should be more on remembering Mu’ath’s life together than mourning him together. Though collective mourning does not allow each person’s individual reactions and feelings to shine through, collective remembering does. After all, Mu’ath is a hero who deserves to be remembered.