The political turmoil between Iran and the US has created fears for many members of the McGill community. These range from direct impacts on their families in the Middle East to smaller things, such as increased surveillance at airports or train stations. McGill meme pages have been posting jokes about the outbreak of a potential war between the two countries, deeming it ‘World War III’ and ignore the implications of such an event. Jokes making light of a potential war between the US and Iran belittle the real fears that come with war. Though not everybody is personally affected by the issues between the countries, everyone should be able to respect the situation and allow those impacted to fully cope.
The Middle East is not unfamiliar with what happens when the US sends troops. Historically, the US has been extremely brutal in the region—for example during the Iraq war—and chances are that the current conflict will be no exception. The US has a military budget of close to $1 trillion and does not face much of an actual military threat from Iran. In addition, it is important to note that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, has never invaded the United States, has a smaller military budget than Canada, and is surrounded by American military bases. The war would most likely never touch American soil, much less that of Canada, or the context of McGill meme pages. The people who will be affected in Canada are those who will suffer from the probable rise in Islamophobia and xenophobia that would come with a war, just like that after 9/11: This is a scary reality for many members of the McGill community. People everywhere feel the effects of this political tension. Those with Iranian heritage, no matter their citizenship, are being detained at US borders and being questioned for hours. Students who make jokes about “building up the courage to ask their crush out before a war breaks out” undermine these fears.
“People have been defending the insensitive posts by stating that humour is their way of coping, but this is not their trauma to cope with.”
Being so far removed from any actual danger is a privilege that allows people to make these jokes. The US President is threatening to bomb Iranian historical sites, places filled with civilians who rarely see a military presence. No such threat has been made toward American citizens, and if it had, most people would not make these jokes. Canadians are even more distanced from the situation, but again, if the threat was local then they would not find the possible danger humorous. In addition, the Ukrainian flight accidentally shot down by Iran had 82 Iranians and 57 Canadians on board, including a McGill student and two alumni, bringing the pain as close to Canada as it will likely ever get. Because the plane crash directly impacted Canadians and the McGill community, it is no longer seen as fodder for inappropriate jokes. It is a privilege to be able to look at the potential war between Iran and the US and be sure enough about the safety of the people in your life to make memes about it. There should be enough respect in the McGill community to know that making jokes at the expense of the safety and wellbeing of other students is unacceptable.
Living in Canada and not seeing the effects of war firsthand means that many do not understand the gravity of the situation. However, in an institution like McGill with a diverse student body and high academic standards, there should be a higher expectation for students. A school that boasts diversity should not allow students to make jokes about the terrifying experiences of their peers.
People have been defending the insensitive posts by stating that humour is their way of coping, but this is not their trauma to cope with: The fear being felt by Iranians is not the same felt by Canadians. McGill has yet to acknowledge how its community will be affected and their statement about the plane crash in Iran is not enough. There should be a higher standard set for McGill students and McGill should provide an example of this standard by issuing an adequate statement acknowledging this political tension that has a serious impact.