“And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the heart”
Hall of Fame Canadian Rock band Rush
Good words for today, yes? Canadians head to the polls later this month. Americans are disrupted by an impeachment inquiry as they prepare for an election next year. And just in . . . this horrific notification from CBC news following the Trump administration’s “impulsive” removal of US troops from Syria: “Turkey says it has begun a major offensive in Syria, including air strikes and artillery fire.”
It was Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, who called the move impulsive. It has left the Kurds, a key US ally in Syria fighting toward the defeat of ISIS, vulnerable and now literally under fire.
Syria has been on my mind a lot. I recently read The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi. Remember that heart-wrenching picture from 2015 of a toddler in a red shirt lying face down, dead, on the shoreline? Kurdi describes it this way: “It conveys two things at once. On the one hand, it’s the familiar and tender pose of a toddler sleeping, his body awkwardly contorted, yet he’s sound asleep nonetheless, his fat little cheek pressed against the mattress. But it’s not a mattress. It’s wet, cold sand. And he’s not asleep. He is dead.”
“Familiar and tender”. Oh, my heart aches as I picture my own children, as toddlers, in peaceful sleep. And my grandchildren.
Alan Kurdi was the boy, drowned along with his mother, Rehanna, and older brother, Ghalib. Some say it was foolish of their father, Abdullah, to attempt – it was their third try – the dangerous crossing (due to inadequate vessels) on the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. But what choice? You understand when you read about the hardships of living in a war-torn region, finding work, money, and then? On his way home from work one day, Abdullah was pulled off the streets by terrorists for the offense of being a Kurd, which they call kafreen, meaning “You are not true Muslims.”
Writes Kurdi, “After many days of beatings and torture, Abdullah began to wonder if he’d ever see his family again. After more than a week of this torture, the terrorists entered the room armed with pliers. They held open Abdullah’s mouth and yanked out his teeth, one by one.”
OMG! How, I mean how, can humans treat other humans in this way?! Perhaps by thinking of them as less than human? You may recall that during the Rwanda genocide of 1994, Hutu extremists referred to the Tutsi minority as “cockroaches”, then set about killing 800,000 (mainly Tutsi, some moderate Hutu) people in just 100 days.
“The world has said ‘Never Again’ many, many times,” says Caesar, a man who has risked his life, over and over, to photograph the atrocities of “systematic torture and killing” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “But these have been mere words without any real meaning or action behind them.” His images are currently on display at the UN Headquarters in New York as he continues to plead with America to act.
And what about the man overseeing America, a nation the BBC refers to as the world’s foremost economic and military power? Hurling names at people, time and again, to make them less than? He’s called Omarosa Manigault Newman a “dog”, criminals “animals”. Baltimore a “rodent infested mess”. Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff “Liddle’” (don’t forget that hyphen-apostrophe there). Speaker Nancy Pelosi “Nervous”, which backfired on Twitter as she seems anything but nervous.
Did you happen to notice Ellen and George W sitting side by side at the Cowboys/Packers game on the weekend, sharing a laugh? Social media lit up and most were pissed, saying, did she forget about the anti-gay marriage, Iraq, incompetence? She noted on her show, yeah, what’s a gay Hollywood liberal doing sitting next to a conservative Republican president?
“I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” Ellen said. And she talked about kindness, pointing out, “I mean, be kind to everyone.”
Politics is nasty business, evoking lots of emotion in people when beliefs held dear are threatened. Watching Canadian leaders debate this week was challenging as they disagreed, avoided answering and talked over one another. But while the leaders were often frustrated, I wouldn’t say they were disrespectful.
A shout-out to my night-time buddies Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon on CNN for discussing Ellen’s kindness and to Cuomo, a Rush fan, for quoting the above lyrics. The “men (and women) who hold high places” have a huge responsibility, but if they fail in leading we must not follow.