Remember when the internet blew up and faith in humanity vanished after Gary Johnson infamously asked “What is Aleppo?” Sure, maybe he seemed insensitive and uninformed to some, but I found his honesty absolutely necessary.
Skip ahead three months and my Facebook news feed is continuously flooded with people pretending to care about the war in Syria and now the evacuation. They’re liking videos about Aleppo with a sad face and commenting something like “praying for these innocent lives” or “my thoughts are with Aleppo.” I’m sorry, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s that prayers and thoughts do fuck all. They’re just a front for the continuously vanishing faith in humanity.
Comfortable Westerners see videos of distraught children and blown up civilians. Maybe they cry a little inside, and share their shock and horror with family members and friends. Then they go about their day, driving to school or work, spending $4.50 too much on a fancy holiday latte from Starbucks, or buying an unnecessarily elaborate Christmas gift for your dog, and ending the evening with a glass of wine, their ass planted on a cushy sofa, their feet up on the coffee table as they turn on the most recently added movie to Netflix on their 4K TV — and they forget about the violence until they scroll through their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever social media page the next day. The cycle repeats.
Yes, Vox, AJ+, and Mic videos raise awareness, I suppose. But they do so by doing their jobs: reporting facts. And they do so by using an emotional appeal. See that child crying over his dead father? What about the face of the young boy sitting in an ambulance, covered in dirt and blood that remains so engrained in many peoples’ minds? These news sources are doing a decent job of putting innocent faces to this tragedy. But are we doing anything to help?
A recent Huffington Post article entitled “The World Failed Aleppo, But It Can Still Save Its Displaced Residents” emphasized this very point. Where was the necessary humanitarian aid needed to help these innocent victims? Why wasn’t the world doing more to protect these people? And although the cease-fire and the evacuation seems like the light at the end of a very bleak tunnel, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Syrians and their families. Just because the violent horrors have stopped does not mean the story has ended. There’s more that needs to be done and there’s more that can be done.
Maybe it’s not easy for us Westerners to watch what’s happening in a war-torn country on our computers and TVs, but somehow we find it easy to do nothing. Maybe we don’t feel obligated to do anything because of our distance. Or maybe we just don’t know what to do to help. As human beings, I think it’s safe to say we don’t enjoy watching others, especially those less fortunate than us, suffer. But why are we resorting to sharing videos on Facebook or simultaneously offering our prayers and retweets when awareness is now null and void?
Here’s what we can do. Stay informed about what needs to be done, what is going on in Aleppo, and how Syrian families and individuals are affected by the mandatory evacuation. Keep talking about the crisis and let your voice be heard, but also provide action. Donate to charities like the ones recognized on Charity Navigator, which is a non-profit website that rates and organizes different charities and breaks them down by financial performance, and accountability and transparency. This way, you can see how much of your donation is going to help people in need and where exactly your money is going. You can also privately sponsor a refugee and their family — this means providing emotional and financial support for around a year.
It’s not that we should ignore these videos. In fact, we should do the exact opposite. If you see something on social media about the crisis overseas, don’t just pretend to care. Do something that shows you care. Otherwise pull a Johnson and maybe you’ll be off the hook.