“And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention” – The Talking Heads
I am sure you have heard of the terror attacks in France. Maybe you even changed your profile picture to show your support. You heard about the Orlando shooting and read about the thousands of people who lined up to donate blood. You probably heard about the recent bombings in New York and New Jersey. Your news sources are covering these events, your friends share posts about them and you hear people talking about them on the street. They are known worldwide, and the world cares that they happened.
Now imagine waking up every morning to a day like 9/11. Every day another block of your city blown to pieces along with your neighbors who lived in it. You walk down the streets filled with rubble and dust, trapped in a country where there are no safe places. Innocent people are crushed under their homes, destroyed by barrel bombs or cluster bombs, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
And no one will even try.
Can you imagine it? This is happening right now in Syria. Can you name the cities or the people to whom this is happening? Have your friends reposted articles or changed their profile pictures to the Syrian flag? I am almost certain you answered no, and I do not blame you. Not too long ago, I had not either.
Sept. 3, 2015: Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old boy, washes up on a Turkish beach and the photo of his corpse in the sand awakens the world to the Syrian Migrant Crisis.
May 28, 2016: The silverback gorilla named Harambe is shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo. The news for the following week is consumed by the story, neglecting the 700 bombs that were dropped in Aleppo, Syria.
June 15, 2016: Donald Trump announces he would not allow Syrian migrants into the United States if he became president.
Aug. 5, 2016: The world watches, posts and tweets about the beginning of the Olympics. At the same time, hospitals in Syria are hit with the deadliest attack since the beginning of the five year war. Six of their most crucial, functioning hospitals are destroyed.
Aug. 19, 2016: A horrifying photo of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh covered in blood and dust makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal. It is a brief reminder of war-torn Syria. The next day, Colin Kaepernick sits down a second time for the National Anthem and causes uproar for the next few weeks.
Aug. 19 was my breaking point. A copy of the Wall Street Journal found its way onto my kitchen counter. I picked it up, looked at the image of Omran Daqneesh and was immediately heartbroken and disgusted. Like most of the world, the image shocked me, but on top of that, it pushed me to start to care more about what was happening in Syria. The days after the attack in Syria that injured Omran and killed his older brother were not filled with anger from my peers. My peers did not even know this had happened. The weeks following the attack were filled with spewed anger over the National Anthem and Colin Kaepernick while more bombs were dropped, more children were killed, more hospitals were destroyed. Syria disappeared a little more each day.
The general knowledge of Syria from the people around me is that it is the place where “the terrorist Muslim immigrants” are from. It is a place of insignificance, and it should keep its people rather than send them over to us. And who is to blame them for thinking this way? With Donald Trump and his opinions of immigrants consuming our media every day, and the lack of coverage of Syria’s dire situation, how are people supposed to know about or support the people of Syria? With the disparity in media coverage, how is our society expected to know about the daily horror that strikes Syrian individuals?
Our country is failing the people of Syria. We are ignoring them and allowing them to be killed silently. We are criticizing them for seeking refuge in our country, condemning millions to a life of danger and deplorable conditions. As Americans, we have never had to live in conditions like the people of Syria today. We cannot even begin to imagine living in a place where bombs are dropped on our cities daily. When something bad happens, we make it known. We know their names, we post and inform ourselves of what happened, because these are human beings.
We are all human beings.
The atrocities in Syria should not have to fight for media coverage and, at the very least, our profile pictures should be overlayed with the Syrian flag. The names of innocent people who have lost their lives should not go unknown. The videos of men, women and children buried alive under their own homes should be shared and given the screen time they deserve. The world should be behind the people of Syria, fighting for peace.
Our news sources should be covering this daily, keeping us informed and involved, because if our world was falling apart, if this was happening to our people, we would be paying attention.
*This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue of The Yard.