Saturday, August 31, 2013
My thoughts on Syria: What if I was your child?
Today, my children and I marched for peace - and against US military action in Syria. I am all for action in Syria - and have been calling for humanitarian aid for years. But I don't believe dropping bombs on an already devastated country can help its people.
After Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other countries in that region, I am very skeptical of any US "intervention."
Those who have read The Girl God or followed my posts on Facebook, you will remember that my daughter is named Helani. It is she who inspired the book and much of my work.
What you probably don't know is that Helani is named after my first husband's aunt, who lives in Southern Lebanon. When I met her there in 1996, I decided that I would name my daughter after her.
What can be said of Helani?
In my 21st year, she encapsulated everything I hoped for both myself and my own (future) daughter. She was bright, beautiful, articulate, brave, bold, and a teacher by trade. I will never forget her laugh. It was so pure. So gentle, and yet so sincere. She was perhaps the most honest woman I ever met. And I say that from her spirit, as I barely understood her Arabic at the time. I understood her being.
She was utterly at ease with herself in a way that was both refreshing and astonishing. She captured my heart and my imagination.
Most Americans don't know any Arabs - or I suppose that is what I like to tell myself. Can you really know a person and decide to kill their people?
Can you really play with a child and decide later that they should die?
Perhaps this sounds too harsh to you. After all, most Americans probably don't have much to do with our wars.
Or do we?
How many of us have remained silent?
The thought of us throwing more bombs at the Middle East is incomprehensible to me.
As we were marching today, I would often have to pause. The words stuck in my throat. I would revert to whispering them instead of shouting them.
"Hands off Syria!"
"Education not bombs, jobs not missiles!"
"No more war in the Middle East!"
"Give Peace a Chance!"
But then I thought, What right do I have to be silent?
I thought of my nephews, my favorites then 5 and 6-years-old. I remembered how every morning their mom would send them to buy me croissants and candies, which they would take out of their pockets sheepishly, the chocolate melting in their hands. Their simple but loving gestures will be forever etched in my memory.
I remember how they loved to just sit close to me, wrapped around my arms. How one in particular was very crafty and liked to cheat at cards.
I loved them instantly. I will always love them.
I remember being in Lebanon, worried about what was flying over head. I remember so many indescribable things from Lebanon. But more than anything, I think of the scar on my ex-husband's muscled arm. A bullet he received when he was 8.
I remember the sobbing of his best friends father, who was killed in front of him in those very tender years. The pain of his family - and my ex - that never went away. And the pain from hearing their cries that seared into my own heart. I will never forget their tears.
I think every American should have to sit as I did in a living room of parents and relatives who have lost a child this way. 20 years later, they were still sobbing. It took me a full day to stop sobbing nonstop myself. And, I think part of me never stopped.
I am not an Arab. I have not suffered as they have in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq....
But I do feel their pain. It is not lost on me.
The biggest problem I see with Americans - and Westerners in general - is that we do not view the children of the world as our own.
We are immune to their suffering. We shop, eat, drink, party, consume as if "they" did not exist.
But "they" are us.
At one point, my son looked tired. We had been there a few hours in the hot sun. I asked him, "If it were you they were bombing, wouldn't you want someone to march for you?"
I know some people do not agree with bringing children to rallies. But I do not agree with raising children to only consume - with no consciousness of the world around them. I do not agree with putting my kids in front of a TV to "raise" them and shape their values.
Our values are backwards.
My proudest moment as a mother was when my son's 3rd grade teacher told me, "Joey has a very strong sense of justice."
Do your children know where to find Syria on a map?
This is important.
More important still is knowing a Syrian child. For if we all did, I have no doubt, we would not even consider dropping more bombs.
TOP PHOTO by Cyrus Loran and Adrielle Fuller, used with permission.