I’m a suburban U.S. mom of two boys with a (admittedly) gas-guzzling SUV. We make a decent living and my stresses amount to whether my house is clean enough for visitors, if my kids are meeting all their milestones or lamenting over my muffin top, my career or whether my husband will be home before the kids go to bed.
Still, I’m a newshound and starting a year ago, I sporadically followed the popular uprising in Syria. Then word started to come out about the brutality of the Syrian government’s crackdown and I’ve since been uber obsessed.
I feel like there’s a genocide happening right before my eyes and I’m not sure how to stop it. I check Google News several times a day to see what’s happening. I followed the government troops’ advancement on the city of Homs, which before the uprising had a population of 1 million. (For a little perspective, Homs is 19 square miles, about the size of Branson, Mo., and that city has a population of 7,500.) I winced as I followed the attack on Homs, when at least 100 people were killed each day. In those “shellings” there was the killing of veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin.
She’d clearly witnessed some action in her time, even lost her eye in an attack in Sri Lanka and the fact that she said the slaughter in Syria was the worst she’s ever seen… Well, to me, that says something. It says that this is different, this is extra horrific. This is unconscionable.
I remember watching the movie Hotel Rwanda with tears streaming down my cheeks wondering how people could just sit idly by as others were massacred. Now, eight years later, we have atrocious killings and torturing again. I know this happens in various pockets of the world every day, but today, I’m talking about Syria. I don’t have any family there, in fact I have no ties to the country, but it’s captured my heart and my heart breaks for its people.
Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have been describing the anti-government rebels as foreign-supported “terrorists.” The U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed in the past 12 months.
Recently CNN had a piece called “72 Hours Under Fire” and I was enthralled. There was the 19-year-old volunteer gasping for breath, a horrible head wound from a man laying listlessly on a blood-soaked cot, a terrified mom begging CNN correspondent Arwa Damon to feel her crying child’s feverish forehead.
(How many of us moms have felt helpless when our baby has a fever, we don’t know what’s wrong and it seems like an eternity to get an appointment at the doctor’s office? Well, then imagine being this Syrian mother. Loving your child as much as you do. And all the medical care has to take place in disparate, half-standing buildings that if you visit, you very well risk getting killed by snipers. Now that’s real helplessness.)
I challenge you to keep reading this post. Keep feeling uncomfortable. Don’t turn off your heart. We have the luxury of doing this, they don’t. So imagine walking in their footsteps as best as you can for as long as you can.
It’s awful. The trembling children with hollowed eyes who have witnessed more than any being ever should see. The untold women who have been raped. The father who saw a soldier slit the throat of his 12 year old son. Sheesh.
I admit, I desperately wanted to change the channel from the “72 Hours Under Fire.” In fact I did. I left CNN and checked out E! because I needed an escape and there’s nothing like escaping into the enclave of trivial celebrity life.
Then feeling shallow, I begrudgingly turned back to CNN. If these people could grit their way through this massacre, I could at least do them the service of watching, listening to their cries. I feel powerless to help, I can offer my prayers and after a Google search, “Like” a Facebook group. After more Googling, I found Life for Relief and Development, which is helping Syrian refugees, and there’s Avaaz, the Internet activist organization.
So I’ll write a check, but I wish there was more I could do. I want the massacres to end immediately. I sometimes think of the Kony2012 campaign and wonder if there’s something similar that could be done that’s aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria. If we can work together to bring someone to justice for atrocities committed yesterday, the day before or even decades ago, can we do something to stem the atrocities of today and tomorrow?
God, I hope so.
But for now, I will be thankful for the perspective and remind myself that if my little one doesn’t sleep through the night, if the trash doesn’t get taken out to the curb, or if my fat girl jeans are a little too comfy, that it’s all trivial and nothing more.
First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
~A version of Martin Niemoller’s poem, “First They Came.”
*Image by ponsulak