While Rome burns we fiddle with a clown

The buffoon who is Donald Trump has stolen from us, and his tax dodging and compulsive lying are the least of it.

He has stolen our attention, blinded us to the fact that an entire nation is dying and one one of its great cities is already dead.

I refer of course to Syria. To Aleppo.

A five-thousand year heritage is being systematically buried under rubble, spurred on by an unscrupulous and sadistic leader (Bashar al-Assad), abetted by another nation with renewed imperialistic aspirations (Russia), and tacitly condoned by a third that dropped the ball (the United States). Add to this the brutality of IS and it’s easy to understand how a quarter of a million Syrians have lost their lives in the past five years. And they’re still dying.

There have been humanitarian disasters in the past, and the world has always rallied with financial support, but this time there is no recourse. Convoys of food and medicine are routinely bombed by Russian fighters who then disavow the actions. Vladimir Putin’s smug cynicism, even for someone with his rapacity, is shocking. And the United States, hamstrung by a citizenry fed up with Middle East wars, has provided just enough avoidance to allow the slaughter to begin.

About 18 million people still live in Syria — down from 24.5 million before the war broke out. That’s 6.5 million who are classed as internally displaced. Unemployment is 50%. Seventy percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, unable to secure basic food. In stricken areas the price of bread has risen 6500% and milk three times that figure. These are not typos. Where the Assad regime retains power, the figures are dramatically lower: he imports food from Russia and Ukraine while systematically starving areas where the rebels make strides.

There have been upwards of 400 attacks on medical facilities, and more than 700 medical personnel have been killed. Half the hospitals and health care services are either gone or operating at minimum efficiency. Thousands of children have died, and those remaining have been systematically denied an education.

aleppo

Even after all this, Syria can be saved. Cities like Damascus have remained basically unscathed, and in other parts of the country life goes on much as it did in 2012. But a confluence of events must occur—one that directly involves the three aforementioned countries and indirectly the rest of the world. It seems unlikely to happen, but as long as we remain obsessed with the ignorant and abysmally inappropriate Donald Trump (a Putin admirer, by the way) we don’t have time to think about anything else. Years from now our children and grandchildren will ask how we let this happen, just as we ask about the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Japanese Internment, the Trail of Tears, slavery, honor killings, and on…and on…and on to the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte who plans to exterminate three million drug users. His model? Hitler.

I don’t have a solution to any of this, but can we at least pay attention?

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

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