This morning I got up around 8am. It’s Saturday. My window was open as I woke and I could hear the birds outside and a dog barking in the distance. Lying in bed, I started thinking about walking my dog, having coffee, eating breakfast. When I got up, I made myself an egg sandwich. I wasn’t hugely hungry, but I know that if I don’t eat I’ll be starving later, and I hate the feeling of starvation. Plus it’s not good for your metabolism.
As I was eating, I turned on MSNBC because I’m a bit of an election junky. Election, not news. Fortunately, for most of us, our 24-hour news channels aren’t talking much about Syria these days. They’re talking about Trump. And Clinton. And the odd accident, shooting, massacre when it happens. But even when those incidents are covered, you can be assured that within a day or two, they’ll return to talking almost exclusively about Trump. And Clinton.
But this morning they were talking about the bombings in Aleppo. About the recent surge of attacks in Aleppo, about the bombings of two hospitals, about civilian deaths, barrel bombs, devastation, a debate about what kind of warfare is humanitarian and what kind isn’t. They showed video of that devastation in Aleppo. Jagged rubble and dust. A leveling of a city. A city where people lived. A city people have been fleeing, trying to flee, dying in, starving in. All people. Men, women, children.
I put down my egg sandwich and pushed it away. I put my hands to my forehead and closed my eyes to stop the coming tears. “Just try not to think about it.” That’s what I told myself. That’s what I always tell myself. I don’t want to think about it. Do you? I don’t enjoy debating war, what to do about all those poor refugees. Do you?
But then, it’s all connected, isn’t it. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, the election, the shootings, the train wrecks, the massacres. Just like we humans. We’re all connected. But here I am, eating my egg sandwich on a leisurely Saturday morning, and I don’t want to think about the bombings in Aleppo. But oh my god. What does that make me?
Surely, talking and thinking about all of the suffering in the world isn’t the right path. But a reminder. A reminder that there are people dying in boats trying to flee their home even as it crumbles before their eyes. A reminder of the children who are starving. Displaced children with no food, dead parents, and surrounded by people who also are just trying to survive. How cold must that experience of humanity be? I will never know, and most of you never will either.
It’s not that we need to think about it incessantly. But perhaps just in the spirit of empathy. Of generosity towards others. Instead of the “MINE, MINE” attitude that allows someone like Donald Trump to rise in the first place.
What about the refugees? What about the homeless man in your neighborhood? What about that skinny, dirty stray dog you saw a couple of days ago? Why didn’t you do what you could to help?
I know. It’s not your responsibility. You have important things to do. A family, a job, responsibilities. You can’t be troubling yourself with the problems of others all the time or you’d have no room for your own.
But it’s our world. We’re all here together. We make this place what it is by how we define ourselves and how we treat each other. I believe it’s always better to be generous, but of course, I fall short more often than I’d like. Maybe just an adjustment of perspective would do it. A change of attitude. Just a morsel of a moment when you remember how good you have it compared to other people the world over.
Or you could just go back to eating your egg sandwich and try not to think about it.