Image from the NYTimes
Dear everyone who can tell right from wrong,
Because the last year and a half has been so hard, I really wanted to focus on something positive and uplifting today. I was planning to write a thank you letter to the media who have persisted in holding U.S. President Donald Trump and his clown college administration accountable.
But I couldn’t because I woke to the terrible news this morning of an attack in Syria that included shelling and the use of chemical agents against civilians. According to the medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), the attacks “systematic[ally] target[ed] medical centers and civil defense teams, resulting in the destruction of the majority of the civil defense centers and a large number of ambulances and rescue vehicles, heavily paralyzing the medical capacity of the city.” There are reports that hundreds are injured and as many as forty people have already died. The Syrian government is accused of carrying out the attacks against its own people.
In his typical shade-throwing fashion, President Trump condemned the attack and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad via name-calling and Obama-blaming on Twitter.
I recently heard a school principal speak at a fundraiser about “servant leadership.” Like me, you may never have heard this term before. Essentially, it “is a leadership philosophy that believes the most effective leaders strive to serve others, rather than accrue power or take control.” The principal went on to describe a vibrant community as one in which the members are giving back and helping others. So when I read about this most recent Syrian attack, I asked myself “what can I do?”
To start with, I believe truthfully identifying things is often the first step toward taking action and effectuating change. So I join Pope Francis, who characterized the attacks as “ devices of extermination,” and call this what it is: an act of genocide.
Less than a month ago, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum held a panel discussion and public program to mark the seventh anniversary of the Syrian conflict. One panelist, Rafif Jouejati of the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education (FREE-Syria), says we all bear the blame. “I would accuse the entire international community, squarely, for its inaction…. The Assad regime has been allowed and perhaps encouraged to act as it chooses. Russia has been allowed to act as it chooses. When Russia is guilty of dropping bombs on civilian structures—hospitals, schools, marketplaces—the world is complicit in merely issuing condemnations.”
Even members of the Trump administration recognize this. U.S. National Security Advisor (for one more day!) General H.R. McMaster gave the keynote address for the event and noted, “Preventing genocide and mass atrocities falls on all of us. Every nation, and every person, must share this responsibility.”
In the past, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and supported organizations providing relief to Syrian refugees. But it’s not enough. Another member of the panel discussion, Deputy Director of the Syria Civil Defense (also known as the White Helmets) Mounir Mustafa, believes we can do more. “Supporting our [civil society] organizations is only dealing with the results or the symptoms of the conflict…. If people around the world, instead of just giving money to these organizations, if they come together to urge their governments to stop the cause of this conflict, then we won’t need the contributions to support the civil society and the relief work.” Similarly, Dr. Samer Attar of SAMS “suggested that concerned Americans, who might not be able to travel to neighboring countries to help deliver aid, can write op-eds in their local paper and speak to their elected officials to demand action.”
So this is an open letter to every single person in the world mature enough to differentiate between right and wrong. I don’t say “adults” because the young people are leading the way as our moral compass these days. To all of us: what are we doing to make our world a vibrant community?
And President Trump, I call on you to be a servant leader. Don’t just insult people on Twitter. If you believe President Obama dropped the ball on Syria, step up and lead. You have the ability to make the world a better place. Do it.