The drive home was punctuated with many passing sirens and the aftermath of at least one accident. Sunset ended all our defenses against the single digit temperatures, and I was being cautious of black ice, so I didn’t hear the itemization of aggressive acts that led the radio news anchor to declare that Syrian unrest had reached the violent heights of January 2012.
His words made me immediately want to review Syrian news from early 2012. They made me embarrassed at how time and conflicts all smear together in my head. And I became painfully aware of how much of the world skips by beyond my notice unless there is a headline about it that all too typically includes horror, atrocity, or tragedy. When I checked into the news for inspiration for this post, indeed it was the article “Dozens incinerated as Syrian jet blasts petrol station.”
I often wonder what anyone snug in their safe, war-free home, or even someone in dire straits, but not in a combat zone, owes to the human beings whose lives are literally exploding around their heads. The contrast of my silent house and warm bed is so stark it almost seems cruel. And yet I am not the leader of a friendly nation to go in and broker a truce. I am not an aid worker or agency. I am not a clever, endowed eccentric, willing to risk everything to save a few people. What exactly am I supposed to do? And if I can’t do anything, do I really need to put myself through the empathic pain of caring?
I believe that any step one person takes to understand one (or many) other human being(s) is time and emotion well-spent. I have faith in understanding and familiarity as the best inoculation against conflict. If I learn a little, I will have a lot more questions. When I ask questions, I make friends. I grow from the answers they give me and I am enriched by having one more new perspective, different culture, other background in my life. Whenever I can I pass it on. Who can I teach or tell or show or introduce to an idea or image or place that they never knew before and never knew would inspire them. It is the long game for sure, but it is easy to imagine that if more people played perhaps some conflict could be avoided.
Do I owe Syria anything? As we are all humans, that is kinship enough for me. I think I do. What good can I possibly do for Syria? Tomorrow? None. But after that? Well, I don’t really know yet and neither do you. What’s in it for me? Little lies outside the scope of my curiosity. As I learn about Syria I will gain knowledge, words, recipes, inspiring images, exotic sounds. I will grow wealthy simply because I tried to understand an uncomfortable moment in the history of people I may never know. In this horrible time it seems the least I can do is hold Syrians in the comfort of my consideration.