The civil war in Syria has been going on for years. I know this for several reasons, one of which is that I taught my 8th graders about Bashar al-Assad… back in 2012. I had an article stapled to our Current Events bulletin board, one that criticized Hillary Clinton for calling Assad a “reformer.”
I remember looking at that article, black and white, fading already. I remember being unable to fathom this acquiescence to a mass-murderer that we could easily have stopped. It wasn’t particular animosity towards Clinton; it was a great disgust with “politics” in general, this hideous practice of masking a murderer with tame and measured words.
According to Gen. David Petraeus, bombing the Syrian Air Force after Assad gassed his own citizens would likely have produced an irreparably crippled regime. That was back in 2013.
And now, Aleppo is about to fall into the hands of Syrian government troops. The people there will suffer, though of course that is just a word.
A word that cannot encompass the reality. They have already suffered, a human genocide of 470,000+ casualties.
And how do you write about children dying in a hospital from a Russian air attack? How do you capture that with a laptop?
You cannot. “Suffer” here means what? Being shot, perhaps? Beaten? Hanged? Thrown from a rooftop? Burned? Tortured some other way? Children, too. Forces that targeted children’s hospitals will not discover some scrap of humanity now.
Assad will, presumably, stay in power. For that, even an atheist must hope that God exists, that there is a judgment awaiting him in the afterlife.
And yet here, in America, we talk of President-elect Trump’s latest tweet. Or his asinine proposal that a “friend of Russia” might be appointed Secretary of State. Or his treacherous assertion that he, despite refusing daily intel briefs, somehow knows better than the C.I.A. who the source is behind the DNC hack. (He assumes a “400 lb” person sitting in bed somewhere. He’s, like, “a smart guy,” okay?)
No mention now of Syria, from the current president, from the president-to-be, from the network news, from the cable talking heads. It’s a far-off war, not our problem, not interesting, too much of a downer. It doesn’t “sell” the same as the orange-haired know-nothing who seems petrified of leaving his levitating enclave in Trump Tower.
But history will disagree with us, I promise you.
For there is no moral justification for a great and powerful nation to ignore the murder of tens of thousands of children. There is none. There is no acceptable excuse for muting the stories we find too real, too heavy.
There’s been a strange and disturbing realignment of values amongst politicians, and to an extent, amongst us as well. Genocides, mass atrocities – these no longer come first in line for attention.
Instead, Americans would rather quibble over what adult should use which bathroom, or what new law will start a total gun recall. They’d rather scream at each other over pet issues, which is not to say those issues are not (or never) important.
But in what universe is someone’s temporary awkward moment in a public restroom more worthy a cause than 5-year-olds being slaughtered by a ruthless dictator?
I know the answer, because it has devastated this entire year of politics. The answer is: this one. This universe. In this reality, today, 2016 America, a question over who has a right to which gendered public restroom gets more air time and a more passionate response, from both parties, than the regular killing of Syrian children.
I don’t have the private ear of policy makers, I don’t know any important military generals. Nor do I don’t have access now to the all-powerful donor class, but I do have one thing.
I have a voice.
And so do you.
And I won’t stop writing about Syria.
If you’d like to donate to help Syria, you can find organizations here.