Then and Now: Syria and Ukraine
Loving America to Death 2013 by N. L. Brisson
January 11, 2013
I’m still trying to recover from this bout with bronchitis, so I have been spending a lot of time curled up under a down throw on the living room sofa with plenty of pillows drowsing the cold days away. CNN is always on in the background, and I tune in for a while, alternate that with a nap, and then I tune in again. The news is not exactly great for escaping reality and I couldn’t help but notice the shooter who walked into a California school on this news day or the ferry accident the day before or any of the other sad events that parade across my TV screen daily. But the story that touched my heart the most was the one about the Syrian refugees in Jordan who are living in tents as cold rain pours down on these families who have already been through so much. I’ve been cold and I’ve been wet, but I have never had to be both for days at a time. I have never watched children suffer with cold and dampness and lack of any comfort when I could do little to nothing for them.
Our world can be such a hard place sometimes. There is a voyeuristic quality to wrapping up in my blanket on my sofa watching people a world away living in misery. I cannot help them. I can’t wave a wand and create a dry place for them to huddle away from the cold. I can’t magically dry their bedding and find them all clean sheets and pillowcases and tuck them into soft, clean beds, but I wish I could. To have the technology to see people almost in real time, people who are uprooted by war and fear, and yet to face the fact that I am not able to push a button and provide for them in real time is a very helpless feeling. It is not as if making my reality less comfortable will make their reality more comfortable but there is guilt and there is also a sense that our overuse of fossil fuels has, in a sense, contributed to the misery of others through climate change.
I can see that the resources of our nations are stretched thin. Even though the weather was predicted in advance, apparently no one had the necessary resources to provide for these refugees. There are so many babies and small children. They don’t have proper clothing: no boots, no winter coats, no scarves, no hats, no gloves. Of course, this is a political situation, the fortunes of war, so to speak. If this were a natural disaster it would be easier to jump in to help. Here there are all kinds of sensitivities that must be considered. Perhaps we are not free to provide assistance.
Who helps refugees in war time? Who helps people who have lost their homes and who now may lose their children? Are our economies so debt-ridden we can no longer dole out millions for each of the continuing crises that keep cropping up all around the world at this time? If there is nothing we can do, I would rather not know what is happening. It doesn’t really feel right to shut out the unpleasant realities of our world either. I hope that what the Syrian people can win in the end will be worth the heartbreaking upheaval they have experienced. I hope the fighting will end and people will be able to return to their homes. We think you are very brave.
April 24, 2022
Another War Causes Deprivation
The style of destruction is the same in Ukraine as it was in Syria. Reduce neighborhoods to rubble. Killing people is collateral damage that happens when Putin decides to take new territory, crush resistance, or both. Living in a zone that is being deconstructed by violent manmade explosions drives citizens to escape their homes, longing with all their hearts to stay, and to try to make their precarious way to some new safe or temporarily safe place.
Syrians fled to Jordan in large numbers to live in tents in refugee camps. They lost their privacy and their businesses and now live too close to each other with few comforts. Life slows to a daily schedule of gathering what is necessary to get through the day, of washing and drying clothing, of carrying water and getting along with this new minimalist social order. Some may serve on councils to keep life as civilized as possible. Some may run schools for the children. There may be community meals, moments of conviviality, moments of trauma and depression, or of anger. And there are agencies that help, funds raised online, the help of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders and food aid. But a refugee camp is not a home.
The Ukrainian people fled to Poland and other places nearby, but mainly Poland. Unfortunate people got forced into Russia. Poland and the rest of Europe have found homes with Polish families for many Ukrainians. What began at the end of winter has now moved into spring. Easter in Ukraine is today. Far easier to be a refugee in spring than in winter but nothing akin to the modern life Ukrainians are used to living with their own homes or apartments, with nearby stores, with jobs, and social lives, with church and family. Husbands had to stay behind to fight so woman and children are left with worry and practicalities, soothing each other’s sagging spirits, and keeping children from melancholy. Europe has opened it resources to keep Ukrainians as comfortable as possible. But most cannot go home. Their homes are destroyed.
Once again, I find myself feeling guilty for my comforts. What kind of refugee would I make? What kinds of decisions would I make? What kinds of help could I offer my neighbors, my countrywomen? Can I make it to the end of my life without having such a displacement, such an upheaval? Unsettled times could be ahead for all of us here on our little planet.
We aren’t taking many refugees these days in America. Republicans will not tolerate it and they control from the floor of the Senate. How can the citizens of the world allow one man, (Putin) or even two men (Putin and Assad), to cause such chaos? Can we wage robot wars to escape repercussions on any individual nation state? We don’t have any clone army tucked away on a secret asteroid or remote mountaintop and that clone army didn’t work out very well anyway. We need to be terribly creative, to devise a threat to such men that cannot be traced to a perpetrator but will take someone out of commission when they attempt to terrorize the whole wide world. We need to have a complex plan that also steers what occurs in the aftermath of such a removal by incision of a human tumor. There is no valid reason for Putin’s takeover of Ukraine. It is not necessary to the survival of Russia. It is an imperial impulse, the action of a provocateur. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t only wish to provoke Ukraine.
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