Saturday Selects: America Strikes Syria

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write on the ocassional Saturday to discuss topics outside the general bookish theme of the blog. Today I’m talking Syria.

If you live under a pineapple under the sea, then you’re likely unaware of the significant escalation that took place this week in the Syrian civil war. Earlier in the week the Syrian government once again used chemical weapons against its own people. Killing dozens. Until this week the international community had spoken a lot louder than they’d acted. That changed Thursday night. The US launched a targeted airstrike against a Syrian airbase where the planes that carried out the chemical weapons attack were believed to have originated.

The US has been active in Syria for a couple of years now. But never once did American armed forces attack Syrian government forces. Some have called for the grounding of the Syrian air force. I think there’s only one country capable of carrying out such an operation. Not Russia. Not Iran. The US. First, there has to be a desire to act. Second, there has to be the capability. Third, there has to be a willingness to stand up to TWO dictators.

I’ve seen people criticize the hypocrisy of Donald Trump bombing Syrian targets in the name of the same people he’s trying to keep out. I understand the criticism. But I won’t pretend to understand the complexities of the presidency. Donald Trump may be a flawed human being. But so am I and so are you. Everyone can talk up their own views and beliefs all they want, but 45 men have known what it means to be POTUS. I’d argue the modern presidency is far more burdensome than those of previous eras. Donald Trump is not who I wanted to be president. But I won’t sit back and hope he drives MY country into the ground and our allies away for four years.

Donald Trump is wrong on several things, but I think he got it right on Syria. It’s long past the time for action. The Syrian people deserve better than what the international community has offered. I will criticize Trump every time he signs anything resembling a travel ban based on religion, but there’s more to the presidency than one issue. One of President Obama’s major weaknesses was Syria. Does that mean I can’t criticize him for his inaction while also praising him for signing the repeal of Don’t ask, don’t tell? No. It doesn’t.

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Saturday Selects: The Ban

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write that fall outside the general bookish theme of the blog.

Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday banning immigrants and refugees from seven countries. Syria. Iran. Iraq. Libya. Somalia. Yemen. Sudan. He’s done this under the guise of national security, claiming that this action is meant to protect us from terrorists. But it has been widely reported by multiple reputable news outlets that no attack carried out on US soil since 9/11 involved someone from any of the countries.

Makes you wonder what the hell is actually going on, right? If we’re banning people from our lands under a false pretense, then what’s the real reason for the ban? I’ll tell you, but I think you already know. One of Donald Trump’s major campaign promises was some form of a ban on Muslims entering the country. He’s making good on that promise.

The United States has failed all refugees. We have resources and the ability to take in many refugees, but we don’t. “The greatest country in the world” has all but refused to lend its hand to refugees all over the world. Refugees are escaping war, persecution, and tyrannical governments. Are these not the people we want to stand up for? Are we content just standing on the sidelines as the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe only worsens? Is this really the American way?

Donald Trump is not putting America first, as he likes to say. He’s putting America on an island while the rest of the world backs away from us.

Reading on a Plane

I just read an article about a woman who was detained and questioned by police after a flight crew member saw her reading a book. No. There’s no more to it. Tell me how absolutely ridiculous that is.

But there is more to it. First, she’s Muslim. Second, she was reading a book about Syria. I’d hope those two things on their own would not cause you to immediately think “terrorist” because then it probably says more about you than the person doing the reading. And the airline didn’t issue an apology or anything in their statement. It’s just one person being ignorant and the airline refusing to admit a mistake was made.

But the reason this got me thinking is because on my trip to DC two months ago I took three books with me. Two fiction and one nonfiction. The nonfiction was a book on Columbine. I’ve had it on my shelf for months and I thought I might have some time to read on the plane. I didn’t end up reading any of them, but what if I had decided to pull that book out? Would someone have noticed and immediately thought something was wrong? Would I have been detained simply for reading a book that made someone slightly uncomfortable?

I’m not going to sit here and lecture you on staying safe while traveling, but there is something I do want to say. The people who carry out terror attacks anywhere in the world want to evoke fear in us. They want to alter and attack our way of life. I understand that working on an airplane is taking a risk every day on the job because of could happen. But I can’t sit here and say I think this particular crew member acted appropriately. I believe the passenger was profiled. If she’d been a blonde haired, blue eyed American I don’t think anything would have been said. All I know is I will not live in fear of what might or might not happen. I’m going to live. And I’m going to respect every person I come across because we’re all human. There are some horrible ones among us, but they’re far outnumbered by the unknown heroes of the world.

This went into a different direction than I’d planned. But that’s okay. Do you have any thoughts on what happened with this passenger being questioned simply for reading a book on a plane?

I #CantDoNothing. What about you?

This will be my second non-bookish post of the last few days. But it’s something that is very important to me.

I imagine that nearly all of the people on WordPress are in the developed world. And maybe some in the developing world. Which means most of you all are at least mildly aware of the refugee crisis happening in and around Syria and other countries. Maybe you don’t go out of your way to read about it and maybe you don’t even care because it’s “their” problem. That’s fine. No one is required to care about anything.

But let me remind you of something. Most of the major conflicts and catastrophes in history have been resolved because people decide to help other people. Natural disasters. War. Epidemics. And the crisis in Syria is our chance.

Obviously not everyone has money to spare to give to organizations on the ground, and that’s okay. Actress Milana Vayntrub (you may know her as Lilly on the ATT commercials) has started an organization called Can’t Do Nothing to spread awareness about the refugee crisis currently ongoing, and to raise resources to help those on the ground.

She isn’t asking you to give her your money. She’s really just asking you to watch her short documentary (13 minutes long) about what she’s seen firsthand in Greece, where refugees are arriving every hour. And if you’re moved to action you can donate your time, money, or voice to help one of three organizations she’s partnered with.

The situation for most of these refugees is extremely dire. They lack access to medicine, shelter, clothing, diapers, food. All things most of us have at our disposal. Things we probably take for granted on a daily basis. These people don’t have, and they don’t have them because of things entirely out of their control.

And the thing is that they aren’t looking for handouts. They’re looking for an opportunity to begin again. One man Milana spoke with during her documentary said he wanted to continue his grad studies. There are so many more refugees exactly like him.

I don’t know when or if the United States will resettle refugees here at home, but our government doesn’t have to keep us from making a significant difference in the lives of others.

I #CantDoNothing after what I’ve seen. What about you?

You can visit the organization’s website at cantdonothing.org

Below is Milana’s short documentary on her experience.