I wanted to do a blog post about food.
No, really; I had everything planned out. I was going to talk about the effect war had on modern food consumption, from the new foods that arose from wartime conditions– think Spam and Orange Tang– to the effect of war on agriculture. It was going to be all very peaceful, informative, and most importantly, safe.
But sometimes, there are more pressing issues. Bear with me; this narrative is going to be a little different, and I preface this by saying that I am not completely knowledgeable in every aspect of this fiasco, but I promise this story, incomplete as it might be, has got a moral.
See, my mom is a refugee. More specifically, she is a Cambodian refugee that escaped from Pol Pot’s heinous reign of terror. There are a lot of gory details that I recommend you learn about Pol Pot, but for the sake of brevity, it’s safe to say that this guy was almost like a Southeast Asian Hitler; there’s only room for the perfect Cambodians in Democratic Kampuchea, and everyone else was a dead man walking. (I’ve been to the genocide monuments; tens of thousands is a tame estimation, and “horrible” is sugarcoating it. You name it, they killed it.) But eventually, the Vietnamese bombed the Cambodian countryside, claiming it was to save the country from its own dictatorial oppression. They weren’t unsuccessful; Democratic Kampuchea fell. So did more Cambodians.
As sweet and sometimes annoyingly acclimated as my mom can seem sometimes, it doesn’t seem like it. She wears her Uggs and craves the new Victoria’s Secret line just like every American girl. She was in her high school’s cheerleading team just like every American girl (for the two years she attended American high school, that is). She has a Starbucks gold card and proudly declares so every time I am craving a frappuccino.
But sometime, she covers her legs because they scarred so very, very easily when she was running, and she’s scared of bodies of water because she lost two brothers when rivers were their only safety.
Bombs and violence aren’t always the best answer. They get the job done, but are her scars worth it?
What is ISIS?
Scary. Inhuman. Extremist. It’s a terrorist faction. It’s an insurgency group. It’s a separatist, or perhaps pan-Islamic, depending on how you want to look at it, movement with violent intentions. It’s this, it’s that– who knows? Whatever you want to call it, there’s one thing we can all agree on (unless you’re a part of ISIS): it’s bad.
It’s bad when you’re one of 129 dead in Paris; it’s bad when you’re a mother in Washington DC, knowing that your city is a known target, terrified (you know it’s their goal, and you don’t want them to win, but you are; you’re so scared) of letting your children out of sight; it’s bad when you’re watching your brother being publicly executed for speaking his mind in Syria.
That’s the problem. It’s bad for everyone, not just Westerners like you or me.
On November 13th, 2015, Paris, Baghdad, and 2 cities in Lebanon were all bombed. Horrific death tolls were recorded. Alone, 41 lives were lost in Lebanon; no death count has been this high in the Middle Eastern country since the end of their civil war. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for all of these attacks.
In response, the French government “launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, hitting its stronghold in Raqqa” and bombed the suburbs, museums, and stadiums around Raqqa. Though no civilian casualties were reported, significant damage was done to the city, with homes in ruin and electric and water lines rendered useless.
That does not mean, however, that there have not been civilian casualties.
ISIS has been a threat to Syria since before the November 13th attacks. After taking the once-liberal city, ISIS has publicly demonstrated acts of violence and police brutality. It has changed the laws to prevent uprisings from the people, and women are being forcibly silenced and oppressed. Unless you are in agreement, you’re an enemy; and when you’re an enemy to ISIS, you aren’t safe. If you are not ISIS, you run.
Thus, Syrian refugees.
The problem is, these people are running from their own home. They are people like you and me, and they’re scared too. Only, they don’t have the luxury of seeing ISIS solely through the news. Only, they live through bombings in their once-beautiful city, and they might not be hurt but they’re displaced. Only, life is violence.
The thing is, my mom is a refugee, and she has impressions of old wounds up and down her legs, and she doesn’t touch the ocean and only crosses rivers when there are bridges, but my mom never once says that she blames the bombs. Never has she begrudged the Vietnamese for destroying her village. Never has she hated help, and never has she said that her scars were anyone’s fault but Pol Pot’s.
I’m not a peaceful soul. I like to argue. But yet, I like to imagine that peace is possible, that maybe everything can be settled by a diplomatic convention. I don’t ever want to believe, and I don’t, that violence is the way to go. So, no, I don’t think that bombing Syria is the answer. I can say that I cannot, we cannot, stand for ISIS’s continued actions. I realize that we have no intention of harming noncombatant civilians, that the bombs US and France and Russia and so many more countries are placing are not detonated to destroy but to protect. Secure the homeland; do not allow for terrorist threats. I know we mean well.
And when my mother says that it’s fine, the bombs are fine, they will save Syrian lives in the end just like they saved Cambodian ones, I know that sometimes violence is the simplest, most realistic answer. Sometimes, the only way to achieve justice, to achieve peace, is to fight chaos with chaos, and hope for the best.
I know that sometimes, violence should not be the answer, but it is forced to be. I don’t think bombs are the answer, but I know that they can be, and that they can be effective. I know that sometimes, despite it all, everything works out for the best.
Despite knowing all of that, I don’t think I will ever like it.
The thing about justice, though, is that you don’t have to like it; you just have to accept it. I will never like the bombs. I will never like mass casualties. I will never like that violence is sometimes not just an answer but the only possible answer. Yet, I will not argue that sometimes, they get the job done, and sometimes, the scars are worth it.
I think they are now.
Brumfield, Ben, Tim Lister, and Nick Paton Walsh. “Raqqa Strikes: French Jets Bomb ISIS’ Syria Stronghold.” CNN. Cable News Network, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
Burch, Brianna Danielle. “All The Tragic Events Of Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.” The Odyssey. N.p., 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
“ISIS Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
Jarry, Emmanuel, and Robert-Jan Bartunek. “France Bombs ISIS Headquarters In Syria.” The World Post. The Huffington Post, 15 Nov. 2015. Web.
Meyerle, Jerry. “Is the Islamic State a Terrorist Group or an Insurgency?” Defense One. Atlantic Media, 3 Oct. 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
Rubin, Alissa J., and Anne Barnard. “France Strikes ISIS Targets in Syria in Retaliation for Attacks.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.