I write this with the crippling cries of a small child playing in my earphones, nerve gas choking him literally to death, his desperate rasping gasps for breath ringing in my ears and unnerving my insides, his agony repeating over and over in the background as a foaming espresso machine steams beside me at the counter.
From somewhere overhead toxic bombs dropped on the young boy, waking him into panicked paralysis. No air. His body clenching and revolting against itself. I watch this sitting in my local coffee shop, playing on a Facebook video linked between Trump posts, little pieces of my spirit crumbling and falling away.
On Tuesday, the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in the province of Idlib was hit by a poisonous gas attack. Most analysis to date reports the Assad government as responsible, with this region being one of the last hold-outs of the rebel forces in Syria.
The video below reports on some of the carnage. I will not warn against any graphic images.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has been one of abstract horror and lingering frustration — it is endless, and amorphous.
The tragedy is now many years old and the repercussions forever relevant, as the victims flee the hell and flow into our world and into our politics. But still it all remains nebulous. From the human suffering, to the geo-political gamesmanship, to the looming menace of strange newcomers messing with our lives — all of it floats somewhere out of the reach of tangibility, giant pieces we cannot grasp.
There is Russia supporting a murderous Assad regime just so it can keep its biggest ally in the region in power, and the U.S. hesitating to engage militarily so as to avoid escalation and further carnage. Then there is ISIS and oil and millions of refugees and the utter destruction of cities priceless in history and culture. More than any other issue in recent memory, Syria is completely beyond us.
For years, the players and positions in this game have remained unchanged and yet nothing has been done. It seems that Syria will be left to bleed itself into some solution, and we can do nothing but sit here and watch it happen.
This is what rolled around inside me. listening to that child suffer in my ears. The absurdity of the horror, and the overwhelmingly size and complexity of the pieces, is paralyzing. With every horrible image, the Syrian conflict encapsulates our powerlessness and impotence. It is a situation that consistently shows itself immune to international efforts or pleas of decency, one that offers us no real options to affect change.
And so there seems to be nothing left available but the pointless. The irrationally human.
At their core these giant daunting pieces are made of smaller parts, of people. Every action, every decision, from Russian propaganda to political campaign ulterior motives; no matter how apparently complex we scared silly creatures have made this thing, it is in the end, in some way, made by us.
Therefore perhaps the only thing left to do in the face of such terrible human frailty is to be more human. To resist the comforting call of apathy. To look right at the thing we cannot change and still hope to change it.