Aleppo, Syria fell to government forces yesterday. I only have a vague idea of what this means, sitting beneath the glow of my Christmas tree, a privileged white American woman living in one of the safest counties in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. As I write, burrowed under a blanket, listening to my healthy, well-fed children play in the basement, dinner for six simmers on the stove, and I try to make sense of the senseless.
The people from Aleppo have been telling their story. Their tear-stained faces. Their haunted eyes. Their muddied, bloodied bodies. A crumble of gray has replaced the city they knew. Women, children, the elderly, and the disabled are all who remain. There is no food. There is no way to GET food. There is no escape. Have I been listening to their story?
There is no way that I can completely comprehend the reality facing my brothers and sisters who are living, breathing, and dying in Aleppo, a city that I had never heard of in a land I have never seen.
From my western, coddled perch, the details of this disaster blur together. Was this the town that was liberated by the rebels and people went home? Or was that Fallujah? Is this the town where the seven year old was tweeting updates about her imminent death, like Anne Frank in the Secret Annex with a smart phone? What happened there? How did it get to this point? Who are the good guys and the bad guys? Are there only bad guys? Why is the government turning on its people, and why was there a rebellion in the first place? WHERE IS OUR GOVERNMENT? What will the new administration do as the Russian-backed Syrian government guns down women and children, unarmed and nonthreatening, as they attempt to flee?
We have heard stories like this before, throughout history, but rarely in real time. These atrocities have always felt far away from my reality, and in terms of proximity, they are. And yet.
The internet, equal parts dove and raven, the portal that delivers the best and worst of human nature right into our pockets, wings in and tells us the various versions of the story of Aleppo. The people of Aleppo meet us right where we live and breathe and build our lives. We can see the destruction, the horror, the desperation. We read their stories and their hear their cries.
We see them.
For years, people like those from Aleppo, the war torn, the dying, the refugees, have garnered my sympathy but not my true attention because I believed that it could never, ever, happen to me. Not in the United States of America, guided by the Constitution and a nation of diverse people with a unifying tenet of decency. Human decency. Civility. Rule of law. Order. Compassion.
Without the United States Constitution, we are these families. It is not unfathomable that we could wake up one day and find ourselves in an American version of the Aleppo story.
Friends, it is not that far-fetched. This could happen to us. This could happen anywhere.
When you turn your face to the suffering in Aleppo, ask yourself this:
What can I do to help, to bear witness, to help the people of Aleppo feel and know that they are not forgotten?
Let’s help the Syrian people. Let’s help them. This time, in this moment, we are in a unique position to help. We have resources and voices and security and, of course, the internet. Let’s use the internet like smart, beautiful doves.
Let’s be people who see suffering and, rather than turning away, we turn TOWARD.
We ACT. We help.
Because the people we help is US. They are us and we are them. We belong to each other.
It’s not too far-fetched to imagine that we could be next.
But for the grace of God and the United States Constitution go WE ALL.
Preemptive Love Coalition is the only humanitarian organization still on the ground in the outskirts of Aleppo. They are feeding hot meals to 25,000 people a day, and, at this rate, their funds will run out on Christmas Day. Consider donating to Preemptive Love. (Learn more here). Let it be a sign from you, to our Syrian brothers and sisters, that they are seen, they are heard, and that we know we are not immune from the same suffering that they currently endure.