Mea Culpa, Aleppo
In many ways this is a mea culpa. Since my daughter Naya has come into our lives, I decided to focus more on the things that make me happy in life and not the things that don’t. So, for example, whenever I pass a checkpoint, I always try to think of my family while I’m queueing and not of the fact that I am forced to queue. I think of the moment the soldier releases me from his or her control into their path. I also started writing more about my daughter Naya, and less about our hopeless politics, because of the happiness it brings me. I started viewing life through her eyes and it rejuvenated the child in me like never before.
With this new focus on happiness, I started scrolling past stories which pop up constantly on my Facebook feed and remind me of the dark side of humans and humanity. Aleppo, Yemen, bombings in Egypt, bombings in Turkey. The stories keep piling up. I have to admit that I have largely ignored them and decided not to engage with them, not even emotionally. First, because every time I do, I am overwhelmed with a sense of failure. Failure at not being able to do anything except dedicate a second in my head to the tragedies of their many victims. Second, because every now and then my head goes to very dark places. It takes me to Aleppo, to its cold streets and places me right in the middle. It takes me there, despite my resistance, and puts me in the shoes of a Syrian father who loves his daughter so much yet cannot protect her from harm. It also takes me to Yemen, where fathers are failing to provide food for their starving children. I always ask myself what I would do if I were in those places, in the shoes of those fathers. I have no answers. And then I shrug the dark thoughts off and go back to my comfortable life, scrolling down to a more cheerful story.
Stories of human suffering have become so normal in my life, on my social media networks, to the point where I find myself extremely desensitized to their particularities. My sympathy to other humans facing unimaginable suffering boils down to a millisecond, as I quickly roll on to the next story on my feed. Even if I challenge myself to do something, write something, I find myself stuck with ineffective and outdated aid systems with limited influence, global political powers which steer conflicts left and right reminding me how small and insignificant I am, and then I remind myself that humans have been inflicting suffering on other humans ever since our very creation. Why will this change now? What’s another genocide, another Rwanda? What’s another 1,000 drowned refugees? What’s another execution or two in the streets of Aleppo? What’s another church bombing, mosque bombing? Another 100 children dead from starvation in Yemen? Stories, just stories that I choose to run through in the comfort of my home, my easy life. All I am is a helpless, numb, swift and selective spectator of human tragedies with occasional reflections. Not enough. Not enough at all.