Christmas is here, and it comes despite the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo.
It is a Christmas accompanied by the horrors of mass executions of women and children, airstrikes and barrel bombing of civilians – and mostly world silence in response.
Americans witnessed neatly edited clips of human suffering in Aleppo as its residents made heartbreaking pleas for the world to save them. The volume of Christmas carols and jewelry commercials drowned them out.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, blasted her Syrian, Iranian and Russian counterparts at a U.N. Security Council emergency briefing on Syria. What an articulate and courageous woman. I wish I could be her. She said:
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“When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo – and that day will come, sooner or later – you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening. You will not be able to say you were not involved.
“Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and now, Aleppo. Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin?”
Power’s words hit me hard. What can I do to make a difference? My Facebook posts of suffering in Aleppo last week were buzzkills, receiving little reaction from friends. Nobody wants to see death and suffering at Christmas.
Yet, I can’t help but wonder how my soul and sanity can hold up with the incongruence of our society’s emphasis on the superficial aspects of Christmas and the human slaughter in Syria – all during the same week. Further, these atrocities were caused by humans, not catastrophes of nature. Human action is the only hope for stopping the suffering.
How does one celebrate Christmas during genocide? Though money donations are needed from anyone who has a dime to spare, what I can offer financially is hardly a drop in the bucket in the scope of this tragedy.
Then I remembered all my elected officials. I had overlooked my status as a United States citizen, born and raised with the privilege of living in a democracy, a system of government where citizens exercise power through elected representatives.
These are my representatives – many of them represent you or soon will, as well: President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator-elect Kamala Harris, Rep. Devin Nunes, Gov. Jerry Brown, state Sen. Tom Berryhill, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand, Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas, and Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau.
They represent me on many levels, and their influence has power here at home and across international boundaries. Although I am a devoted voter, I have never implored them to act, as I am doing now. I hope they put this crisis in the forefront and use their influence and political talents to assist these people.
Our representatives have the ability to help the people of Syria be safe in their homes and help them settle here, in the United States, in California, in Fresno. They can make this a priority in the positions they hold – and the positions they will run for next.
I promise to keep track, to support their efforts, to write, to be a voice for those who need our help, and to vote accordingly.
I have faith in my representatives. I will pray for them. Whatever happens will be our legacy, the moral example for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The future of Christmas depends on it.
Susan Wittrup is a psychologist who resides in Fresno.