FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Imagining Syria

by MISSY BEATTIE

After Charles died, I tried to convince friends and acquaintances that complaining—squandering even a minute of happiness—is an extravagance they’d regret. Eventually I realized that death of a spouse or loved one couldn’t be understood until it’s experienced. Maybe that’s protection, insulation. Really, how could we approach each day if we knew at the molecular level the agony of bereavement?

I think of this now when I hear the blustering of men devoid of empathy. Of women barren of compassion. Those too blind to see.

This morning when I ran, I passed a sign in front of an enclave of alley shops. It said, “Who’s Next”. Syria. Syria is next, I thought.

A few weeks ago, when running, I heard a man on a phone, a pay phone. “This is the United States of America and this is my son I’m talking about.” I’ve noticed him before, with several bags, asleep on a bench, wrapped in a blanket despite the heat. I’ve thought about him, wanting to know more. Wanting to know what he meant when he said, “This is the United States of America . . .”

This is the United States of America, whose “leadership” is cutting deals to commit acts of savagery in Syria, undaunted by public opposition. During Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Sen. John McCain played iPhone poker. Yes, that’s right. While his colleagues heard about rogue regimes and horror, the jingoist was losing thousands of dollars in fake money. But he’d had his say the day before, and his mind, set on war, is inflexible.

I am trying to imagine what it must be like to live in Syria, to be Syrian. Really, I have no reference point, other than a natural disaster, a tornado whose force shattered window glass, blowing scalpel-like shards to amputate bedside table legs. Oh, and lift the roof off our house.

More than 2 million Syrian refugees have fled their country since the civil war began in March of 2011. The number’s expected to reach 3 million by 2013’s end. Think about this. Think about it as you have dinner, watch your favorite TV show, brush your teeth, make love, pour the coffee, kiss the children goodbye before they catch the school bus, as you drive to work.

What would you say to your children? How would you comfort them? How would you tell them that America is poised to explode still more carnage? Really, what would you say? Would you tell those old enough to grasp the concept of hypocrisy that the US condemns the use of chemical weapons even though it is the US that has used and provided them (Agent Orange, white phosphorus, depleted uranium)?

You could explain—that the US establishes the rules governing which countries can use chemical weapons and also determines which countries can include nuclear weapons in their arsenals. That this is American exceptionalism at work.

Probably, you would hold your children close and then say, “Gather a few things you want to take, just a few. We have to leave?” And then answer their question with, “No, I don’t know when we’ll return.”

To what will they return?

And what about those who can’t leave? Those who have no means, the sick, the old?

How does anyone make sense of the senseless?

Think about it.

That Barack Obama will cross a line because he’s determined a “red line” has been crossed. That Obama represents a country that’s crossed red lines for more than 200 years, committing crimes against humanity with each crossing.

From the Rose Garden last Saturday, Obama said with customary arrogance, “We are prepared to strike whenever we choose.”

And on Monday, after McCain and Lindsey Graham met with the president, McCain said it would be “catastrophic” if congress fails to approve the president’s proposal—that our credibility would be “shredded.” (Someone needs to be reminded that US credibility was shredded long ago and that life, our ecosystem, should be the consideration.)

Bloodthirsty Graham then said, “The president has to fix this. We urged the president to up his game.”

Ah, there’s the distillate. It’s a game. Another war game. But it isn’t a game to Syrians. It’s real, deadly.

During Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Sec. of State John Kerry was asked if there would be American boots on the ground. He replied that this wouldn’t be off the table. When Sen. Bob Corker challenged, Kerry reversed. “There will not be American boots on the ground in respect to the civil war.” (What exactly does that mean?) In closing, Kerry said not acting would turn America into “spectators of slaughter.”

It’s more accurate to say that a military strike, even a limited one, is an escalation serving to perpetuate America’s role of slaughterer?

An absence of understanding, of being unable to GET the essence of man-made suffering, is not insulation, not self-protection. Instead it’s a separation from empathy.

Let the rest of us imagine we are Syrian. And never be too blind to see.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail