It is not that I or any of us are ignorant, not completely anyway. We all know terrible things are going on in the world, but they are easy to be shooed out of the mind as we fret over last-minute Christmas gifts, toil over feasts to be consumed, and worry about beating the hoards to the grocery store to pick up forgotten ingredients.
I don’t know about you, but a typical day does not find me worrying over what is happening outside my own secure, little state of being.
But right now as we all fret and toil in preparation of celebrating the Christ child’s birth and of gathering with loved ones and friends to exchange items we have made or purchased just for them, in Syria civilian lives are nothing to those who deploy the weaponry that shreds buildings, homes, families, bodies.
I’ve known about it all, these last five years of the Syrian civil war. I have given some thought to the bits of terror brought to my attention by the media. I have only paid brief attention to the efforts of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who used his government might at first to quell rising rebellion and then to blast through neighborhoods held by those that stand against the Syrian government.
I’ve known about it all, but I haven’t given it too much thought. You see, that is there and I am here. Here I am safe and coddled and have only my own trivial worries to bother me.
That admission makes me cringe for its blindness, its arrogance.
A recent CBS news story on the White Helmets got me down deep, so this thing going on somewhere-not-here cannot be ignored anymore, at least not by me.
The White Helmets are the Syrian Civil Defense, a non-government group of volunteers that rush into the destruction-soaked, rebel-held areas after the Assad might has laid them to waste.
These volunteers search for life amid mountains of debris and they fight to get everyone out of the rubble that they can. So many of them have lost their own lives for their efforts.
According to this news report, the volunteers regularly document their efforts. Some of the footage shown in the report shows bombs falling and the immediate devastation that follows. You hear the blast and then the bits of what was just seconds ago a building raining down. You see whoever is filming blown to the ground. You see rescue efforts extending hours because the volunteers have found someone still alive buried in all the rubble and they frantically dig and dig until that life can once again be welcomed to the light. One of those was a crying baby. The White Helmet volunteer that pulled the baby out of the rubble appeared to be overcome with emotion when the tiny, vulnerable human was freed and he grasped the infant close to his body.
After that footage was shown, the report went to a woman, only her eyes peering out from beneath what appears to be a niqab. Beside her was a small boy, 2 years old now. He was the child that rescuers worked 16 hours to pull from the rubble at 10 days old. Her husband and daughter did not survive.
As I was holding my own infant when I watched this, I instinctively held her tighter and found that I could not fight the tears that came or the sob that accompanied them.
I thought about the people that know this horror as their reality. I thought of the hopelessness that must be commonplace. I looked to my husband and remarked that our worries are so very small in comparison.
I thought of my children, my home, my own life, my own trivial little stresses.
Most times I am riddled with concerns, even though I know better. I fret over this, and over that, too. I get stressed about money, children, work, you name it. Don’t we all?
But not once in my 42 years have I had to worry about bombs falling from the sky, obliterating what I hold dear. I have never considered that my government would act against me in violence. There has not been a single time in my life that I have been faced with a worry that I haven’t manufactured on my own.
As I have allowed myself to remain uninformed on the whole of the matter, I cannot pretend to understand all the things that happened that allowed the pieces to fall into place for the Syrian rebellion to begin in the first place, or the things that have happened since to bolster the ongoing events there, much less the political powers at play both inside and outside the country.
I only know there has been fighting. And I know that the images I saw in that report are but a drop in the proverbial bucket of a reality that I can only imagine the scope and bloodiness of.
My world is small and quite protected. My family, my children, and my friends inhabit that world. It is likely that those reading this are quite safe in a similar bubble that is allowed to exist because of the country in which we live. Please don’t take that for granted, and please don’t let it keep you oblivious to what happens outside that secure, little state of being that we are privileged to have.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.