I Can’t Write About Syria (June 11, 2011)

Because then I would be forced to acknowledge that I can’t even locate the Middle Eastern country on a map, that my 1980s, Cold War ideology-laced, primary school geography education didn’t go a lot farther than the United States, Europe and enemy nation Russia. I would have to confront that educators and students of the Me Decade ignored “irrelevant” areas like India, the Middle East and Africa as little more than impoverished, Third World also-rans. I would have to admit that I am still playing catch-up to overcome my early curriculum limitations.

I can’t write about Syria because then I would have to face the shameful truth that I have been spoiled by maturing in a liberal democracy, one that is certainly imperfect, and seems to be slightly more broken with each passing year. But my nation is also one where it’s impossible to bind an old man in the street while soldiers kick him for sport as the cameras roll, and nobody makes a move.

I would have to digest that I will never witness thousands of my fellow Americans fleeing for the border of another sovereign nation, simply protecting their right to live. I can comfortably sit in my kitchen and hurl words bombs from behind a laptop and no secret police, no agents of a totalitarian regime, are going to break down my door and drag me off, perhaps never to be seen again.

I would have to be grateful that I live in a land where there is nothing more abhorrent to the common palate than the murder of children. My nieces, KK and Raina, go to bed every night never considering food, shelter, safety or security. Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, the 13 year-old boy taken by soldiers in Jiza, and returned to his family in pieces, suffered so much at the end of his young life, simply for following the example of his freedom loving parents. My sister will never be forced to go on state television and praise the very regime that murdered her child. We will simply never be subject to that level of sanctioned terror.

I cannot write about what’s happening in Syria because then I would have to confess that I look away from the images of civil war, even as Anderson Cooper urges me to see and digest the human atrocity, as though I were watching a particularly graphic episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I would admit to being sickened by own pampered discomfort.

I would have to admit that my democratically elected government appears to be very selective about which holocausts it will engage, and that many of decisions seem to stem, not from human rights or security issues, but from more mercenary economic and political concerns. Libya, sure we’ll join the fight. We never liked Gadhafi much anyway. But Egypt or the truly sickening situation in Syria, no thank you sir.

If I wrote about Syria, I would have to admit that I feel useless, paralyzed and frustrated. I would have to admit that I don’t know how to help, and so instead, I turn off the TV and drink a glass of wine to calm my nerves. I would have to own that I know absolutely nothing about real human suffering.