I spend 8 hours at work in a room with five televisions all tuned to CNN, copies of The Wall Street Journal and USA Today and multiple computers. Headlines, media and news surround me. I ride home after work listening to NPR. I enjoy keeping up with the world.
Because of this I have, of course, been keeping abreast of the situation in Syria. With the first announcement of chemical weapons use I said to a coworker, “now we'll be inundated with images of children dying, tearing at our heartstrings, until we all agree we should attack.”
Sure enough, this week they released a series of videos of children dying. A two year old gasping for air, an 11 year old with his flesh sliding off like the stories of our attack on Hiroshima. Stories that will convince us that America needs to intervene. That, somehow, if our army flings missiles at their country this will stop people from suffering.
One of my professors introduced us to the book “The Moon Came Down on Milk St.” by Jean Gralley yesterday. This wonderful picture book, written to comfort children after the New York Trade Center attacks in 2001, opens with a reference to Mr. Rogers.
“Look for the helpers.”
As the characters in the book work to put the moon back where it belongs there is a literary nod to each of the “helpers.” The firemen, the doctors, the EMT's and police dogs. This book delivers the comfort that Mr. Roger's mother was offering him with that sentence.
Beyond being a book of comfort, this book is a lesson in cooperation. In teamwork. That's where we, as a country, could take a lesson from our children. We teach our children to work together, to be a team, while the country and the world does the exact opposite. We fight fire with fire when everyone knows water does the trick. We bicker among ourselves while children are dying and suffering.
I want to know who is writing comfort for the children of Syria. As our country fights over whether or not we should attack, help, or leave them to their own destruction, who is comforting their children? Who is writing a picture book for them? While we live here with our assumptions that the scary and the unreal are being exaggerated, pointing out that it isn't our job to be the world's police, they are suffering. And we don't know for sure who attacked them with chemical weapons or why (though I'm sure oil had something to do with it) but we know people suffered. And it's time for us, the human race, to stop suffering. To stop allowing greed to kill.
Perhaps it isn't our job to police the world. I have never wrapped my brain around the concept that violence prevents violence, in my experience it has always been the complete opposite. I don't believe missiles are the answer. But we have a choice to make. We are either helpers, we are the people that little Fred Rogers looked for when he was scared, or we are bystanders. And what pride is there is standing by while a child dies? Instead of fighting over whether or not we should attack, we should be figuring out how to get things to the people in Syria to protect their children. Instead of sending over weapons why don't we work to send over defense? Instead of continuing this pattern of violence why aren't we looking for peaceful solutions? Maybe you can't reason with a warlord, but that doesn't mean the answers are in missiles either.
Why are we arguing instead of being the helpers?