A Dose of Perspective
Published: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 11:02
Living in the relative stability of America allows for its citizens to keep a safe mental distance from the many harrowing issues going on across the world. This is not to say that the issues faced by Americans are irrelevant, or don't affect us in any way. However, the case could be made that many people in this country have a serious lack of perspective when it comes to things they might take issue with or complain about. I am guilty of this lack of perspective as much as anyone. For instance, I'm writing this column right now as a means to escape the crushing mental blow that was my beloved New England Patriots falling to the New York Giants for the second straight time in the Super Bowl. That loss devastated me on a personal level, and it affected and is still affecting my life. However, when I finally was able to pull myself out of the pathetically depressed haze it put me in long enough to hop on the internet for the first time since yesterday afternoon, I was hit with a reality check so hard and so palpable that it seemed to have been delivered by Shawn Thornton himself.
People, almost exclusively civilians, are being bombed in their houses by Syrian army artillery as I type this. These people have no representative government, no security or police forces to help them and many in the Syrian populace of Homs (where the most brutal of shelling is occurring at the moment) don't even have basements in their homes to seek shelter in. There is reportedly one field hospital left in Homs with an estimated four doctors; and if the citizens try to flee for outside help they face a high probability of being shot to death by government forces. They are facing death with literally nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
They face this deadly endeavor because about eleven months ago, the citizens of Syria and a few thousand government defectors decided they didn't want to live under the brutal reign of Bashar al-Assad anymore. They were inspired by the similar choice of the citizens of Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain and Egypt, who stood up in protest during the dubbed "Arab Spring" despite a high probability they might be killed in the struggle for the rights they believed should be guaranteed to everybody. The uprisings and civil wars were not over identical issues but they all held the underlying belief that the citizens were being treated unfairly by corrupt leaders and governments.
In the two highest profile uprisings, the revolutionaries were not fighting alone. Libyan rebels were aided by NATO airstrikes and a strict "no-fly zone", probably the two biggest reasons their uprising was successful against the superior arms and numbers of now-deceased dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Egyptian defectors had the strength of an informed and technologically savvy public that helped organize and gain support for their protests through social media. In both cases Western forces, including the U.S., showed public support for the demonstrations and in Libya's case even financially aided the defectors plight.
In the case of Syria, the regime of al-Assad has held strong and firm while continually and brutally striking down thousands of civilians. They shower gunfire on funerals, hospitals, schools; anywhere they can to deal blows to the resistance and destroy the will of the protesters. The pressure on al-Assad to relieve himself of his position by numerous countries, again including the U.S., has been entirely ineffective. President Obama says that the situation must be resolved without outside militaristic conflict and vows to place sanctions against the regime. Russia and China recently vetoed a United Nations draft resolution condemning al-Assad's crackdown, seen by proponents of the defectors as an invitation for al-Assad to continue with his killing of civilians. Russia claims that the draft resolution would only force sides in a foreign civil war, and only support peaceful talks with Syria.
These are the facts. I want to make it clear that I'm not trying to make the case that Western forces need to be more hands-on involved in ousting al-Assad. This is obviously a very delicate situation and brash actions could have dire consequences. The conservative solution of placing pressure in the form of economic and political sanctions on al-Assad is concurrently being used with Iran and their nuclear situation, and it very well might be the only action we can take without risking a major international conflict.
The lone reason I felt compelled to bring this up is because of the aforementioned lack of perspective that I see around me every day. Plenty of people are completely unaware of the tragedies happening overseas. We have become so used to our free society that we take our freedoms for granted every day. Corrupt bankers are a lot better problem to have than corrupt leaders, and your favorite team losing a championship is a lot better problem to have than worrying about a bomb dropping in your living room at any time. Sometimes a healthy dose of perspective is exactly what we need as a society.