Macie Lavender is an author for The F-Word. She is a fan of slurpees, crows and old music. She is not a fan of dumbasses.
Once majestic, mighty buildings crumble to dust in front of uncaring eyes, human lives and souls reduced to crumpled heaps of flesh lying dead in the streets. The stench of putrefaction fills the air. Dead bodies bloat. Fresh bodies bleed, the blood drips until it dries into a thick magenta crust. Fire rages, the bombs shatter, splinter, split the sky itself into shards of fire and smoke. Families crouch in rat holes buried in dirt and dust and pray for salvation, pray for a way out or simply a quick end to their suffering. Surely a just God will take them out of this human hell, reward them for their suffering. Women, little girls, beg to be put to death rather than given to the soldiers.
Picture the scene; Just another episode of Death, Destruction, and the people who ignored it! I hope it makes you uncomfortable, even though it’s a rerun.
It is 1918 in Armenia. 1.3 million “cleansed”. It is February 13th, 1945 in Dresden, Germany. 200,000 laid to waste in one afternoon. It is July, 1994 in Rwanda. 800,000 massacred. It is 1995 in Srebrenica, (former) Yugoslavia. 8,000 killed, 30,000 expelled.
It is today. Right now. In Aleppo, Syria.
I would love to give a body count but there is no way of counting all the bodies. It’s too unsafe for people to attempt to bury them during the day. And who’s left to bury them? The mourners are gone. All the families destroyed, all the innocents taken too early from this earth because they happened to get in the way of a heinous dictator backed militarily by a more powerful, like-minded demon (Vladimir Putin).
That’s terrible, you say. The world is a horrible place, you justify. Thank God I live in a civilized country, you think, privately, when nobody is looking. Better them than me, your mind whispers, in the darkest hour of night. You ignore it. You’re no monster, of course you feel bad! The situation surely isn’t your fault (or your responsibility, for that matter).
Still, there are people dying. I can go online and find hundreds of videos of real people’s last words. The last messages of Syrians to the rest of the world. I can see the pictures of the carcasses of would be refugees washed up on European beaches, next to a couple of tourists sunbathing. I don’t have to imagine the death and destruction, I can see the battered, bloody children with my own eyes. Hear their screams of terror and last breaths upon this earth with my own ears. So can you.
My question is simply, why don’t we care? What allows humanity to so easily compartmentalize such atrocities in seconds, minutes?
It’s only easy to do when the atrocities don’t impact us, or people like us.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you: You’re racist. It’s ok, so am I. Every single person on this earth is. Why do you think the #PrayForParis movement gained so much steam so fast? Hint: it’s not because the atrocity committed was in some way more horrendous than any other. It’s because it happened to our people! Westerners! The people killed in Paris were completely innocent. (Note: the emphasis on the people killed in Paris being innocent perhaps implies we don’t think those killed in other places are?)
Even more importantly, the villainous perpetrator of the Paris attacks is one we are already well aware of, a radical Muslim extremist. We have already tried and condemned this villain. We’ve fought him in wars. People have heroically laid down their lives to protect us from him! Now, I want you to think, what does this person look like?
A little like this?
This is The Terrorist. It’s disgusting and scary. I don’t even feel like villain is the proper word for this thing, this inhuman caricature. It’s a monster.
In 1945, after Pearl Harbor, the monster looked like this.
That is The Jap. That image, and the fear it provoked, allowed us to justify detonating the atomic bomb (for the first, and only time in the history of the world), immediately incinerating two major Japanese cities and massacring millions. That image allowed us to justify the use of internment camps, where thousands of Japanese American families were rounded up and shipped off to live in gated buildings in the middle of nowhere, under the careful watch of armed guards. If that seems a little too similar to another, better known, atrocity for you, I welcome you to look at this picture.
That is The Jew. The image of this particular monster allowed the Nazis to justify the massacre of six million innocent people. We all know the story of the Holocaust- the Nazis are possibly the most irredeemable villain in recent history. America is the hero for beating them! But I want you to make some jarring comparisons right now. I want you to realize how much we have in common with these people we so often condemn.
Now, let’s return to this picture.
Or this one.
As times change, our propaganda only gets better. Pictures like these allow us to justify denying refugees safety, essentially condemning them to death; or if they’re lucky, suffering and starvation in an overcrowded refugee camp with no resources to spare. They allow us to justify the killing of 210,000 (a rough estimate) civilians during the Iran-Iraq war. They allow us to justify the numerous human rights violations committed by the US government in the Abu Ghraib camp in Iraq. They allow the American soldiers in Abu Ghraib to pose with a cheerful thumbs up and smile as they slice into the flesh of a prisoner. (link) They allow us to look the other way as the US government continues to drone strike the Middle East, even though 90% of drone strike’s victims are civilians. (source) We continue to look the other way even as attempts to kill 41 men have killed an estimated 1,147 people. (The most famous technique in drone striking is to send off a first bomb, wait until first respondents try to come and help those who were hit, then strike again.)
Worst of all, these images allow us to live our lives in fear. To lash out, hurt and kill because of that fear. To refuse to hold ourselves accountable and instead live in relatively blissful ignorance of our government’s true nature and actions.
Now, I think I’ve spent a lot of this article disproving the ideas promoted in American nationalism, but this is not to make you lose faith or hope. There is hope in the determined eyes of people all over the world, working for change.
We are not doomed.
I want you to fight. Fight fear. Fight your own subconscious prejudice (perhaps the hardest fight of all). Fight against ignorance. Fightagainst quiet acceptance.
We are the United States of America, god damn it! Let’s show the world that the ideas of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are not limited as they have been in the past, but available for all. Now.
You can do it, in your own community, in your own way. Reach out. Tell people about the atrocities you hear about. Raise awareness, raise money if you can. DO NOT REMAIN SILENT. As injustice rises, so do the people born to fight it. It’s time to decide if you’re part of the people working for freedom, for justice, for equality. Or if you’re going to submit to the poisonous tendrils of apathy and allow injustice to prevail into the future and kill millions more. It’s too late for Aleppo, but evil will not die on its own. There will be more unless people are working to stomp it out.
We can do it, and we will.
Will you be on the wrong side of history?
On that note, here are some ways that you can start. All of the following charities provide relief to Syrians.