By Terri Sloan
The students of an American High School looked out the classroom windows with mild curiosity as paratroopers drifted softly down and fell quietly to their landings. There was no sense of fear. But as the soldiers released their parachutes and began to fire their machine guns into the room full of teenagers, panic quickly ensued. The fear was palpable. The fight or flight instinct had instantaneous kicked in. As young bodies were thrown back with the force of the bullets searing into their flesh, kids screamed and ran, attempting to save their own lives. The paratroopers kept coming and coming throughout the chaos. Then… silence. A bloody, eerie, silence.
The movie was Red Dawn (1984) and I remember that scene often. I think it’s impossible and I worry it’s inevitable in equal parts. For the citizens of the United States of America, it’s unlikely. Or so we think. We are untouchable. Short of 911 and Pearl Harbor, we have been relatively safe. Maybe if we can keep our distance from the unsafe countries, safe we will remain. Lucky us.
Syrians… well, they are not so lucky.
I follow a seven-year-old girl named Bana on Twitter who lives in Aleppo. She and her mother are using Twitter to journal and communicate with the world about the bombings around them. Daily. It’s heart wrenching. Every day she hears the bombs fall. A few days ago, her friends’ home was hit and her friend died. Some days the bombs are very close and she hides. But there is no hiding from barrel bombs. There’s no hiding from Assad. Why? She asks. Why do they want to kill us?
In a refugee camp in Moria, Greece there was a fire last night. It wasn’t the first fire and it won’t be the last. The conditions are deplorable, and in single-digit overnight temperatures, they are desperate to find ways to keep warm. Sometimes they accidentally cause fires. Or they accidentally blow themselves up. Last night it was a mother and her young children who died. The situation is so bleak, so dire, that, for those who have actually escaped the bombs, there somehow seems to be even less hope. It’s inconceivable.
A year ago, the plight of the refugee was brought to the forefront by videos which began to surface and circulate; videos of refugees, clinging to life, landing on the shores of Greece. Some drowned. Many made it through into Europe. They were the lucky ones. They’re the ones who have had some hope of reestablishing some semblance of normalcy… a little hope for a shot at a new life. Europe, for the most part, grumbled and fought against the arrivals and eventually built a wall. The refugees in Moria are now caught there.
Those of us on the outside looking in have had to choose. Ignore the plight of Syrians because it’s too hard to watch. Marginalize them as lesser human beings to ease our conscience. Call them terrorists to justify our lack of concern. If we try to help, it’s too much. It’s too hard. We can send money, but how much good is money to a seven-year-old who is waiting for the bomb which will hit her house? And I didn’t even mention it before, but they can’t get whatever aid we do send into Aleppo anyway. So they’re also starving. Without intervention, and soon, they will all die — one way or another.
The worst outcome of this election — not the result alone, but the entire process — is the casualty of the nation of Syria and her people. They’ve been ignored, overlooked, forgotten, and used as pawns. It’s as if gasoline was set afire on a giant ant mound and, as it burned, the world circled ‘round to crush any ants with the strength and tenacity to escape.
Aleppo, five years ago, was a beautiful and sophisticated city. Damascus, the oldest city in the world, once rich with ancient artifacts, now stands in ruins. The people of Syria work hard. They are proud. Family oriented. They are educated; they love art and they love music. Ask any refugee and they will tell you; they long to go home to their beloved Syria.
What separates us from the Syrians? The privilege of our birth. We were born here. They were born there. It comes down to this. A movie like Red Dawn is entertaining to us because we live here. We don’t believe such a thing might happen to us. We don’t worry that a bomb will drop on our house. We haven’t been forced from our homes by bombs dropping around us, threatening the lives of our children. We aren’t freezing in tents wondering when this will end.
I implore America and Americans to care. With President Trump in place, the light of hope has dimmed even more, as if that were possible. Pray. Write your Congressmen. Give. Pray, some more. Are you a medical professional? An attorney? Go and help. There are millions of Syrians living in tent camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. They need aid. Go. Give. Pray.
Our government may or may not be inclined to fix this. I don’t even know exactly what the government should be doing. It’s big. It’s complicated. But as individuals, as humans knowing of the suffering of other humans, we can do what we can do. We must. The only wrong thing to do is nothing.