#Syria vs. #teamTessanne

Social media.

You know, that thing everyone’s doing. The new thing, not the old thing. We already know everyone’s doing that. I mean Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their ilk connecting millions across a previously disconnected world. The connections are unlimited, the issues diverse: big and small, local and foreign, devastating and inspiring.

Tessanne Chin is the Jamaican girl on the NBC show The Voice and in true Jamaican style we are rallying to put all our weight behind her. Most of us never even talked about Tessanne when she was back home doing her thing but now that she has been recognized – legitimized – by foreign powers (aka “the colonial masters”) we are bursting at the seams with our pride. It is Usain all over again . . . with less beating of the chest.

But I digress.

#teamTessanne is gaining so much social momentum on my Facebook feed that I sometimes feel like the only Jamaican who doesn’t watch The Voice (until I see a post from someone complaining that they also feel like the only Jamaican who doesn’t watch The Voice). We are calling for votes, airing our opinions (read: badminding the bejeezus out of #teamChristina) and propelling this story of a girl from the little country with a big heart straight into the annals of media-driven nine-day-wonderdom. We are fuelling it for all it is worth.

Meanwhile, 2.3 million Syrians are fleeing their homes in the wake of a two and a half year long war that is tearing their country apart. My tendency to social activism is markedly limited by my laziness but the one thing I am good at doing from behind a keyboard is empathizing. And 2.3M people? That’s a lot to empathize with.

The Washington Post is featuring a series of articles that cover the impact of the Syrian war on the lives of Syrians and their neighbours and the stories aren’t pretty: children mangled by bombings, pregnant mothers living in junk yards and the terrified, stretched thin countries that are desperately trying to contain the insurmountable surge of refugees.

This story too has its own momentum in the media, if you know where to look. It’s too dragged out and unhappy to be the topic du jour but it is a topic beloved by the activists of our generation. To the 20-somethings who are determined to change the world this story is a call to arms that resonates loudly throughout their social circles. I suppose it resonates through all the circles; it just depends on what you’re willing to hear.

I don’t bring this up to criticise fans of Tessanne or The Voice, because happy and exciting things will always have a place amidst tragedy. It’s not shallowness, just human nature. It is our history as a world – The Sound of Music, anyone? – and the juxtaposition of dreams and destitution will continue for as long as there are mortal flaws like inequality and injustice.

I do bring this up to remind the world to look at the good things and the bad, without sweeping the bad under the rug because it hurts too much to think about. The world is an unfair place, and sometimes the only happiness is watching your favourite contestant rise through the ranks to victory. But acknowledge the unfairness, tip your hat to it, and it will become easier to deal with. Bad things don’t detract from good, they make you more grateful.

My bleeding heart goes out to #Syria who could use a little of #teamTessane’s happiness.