Alright people, it’s time for another double-feature, but of a more serious tone. Before I continue, however, I would like to spoon-feed those prone to knee-jerk reactions as there is no other way for them to listen: I have no political allegiances or biases on political matters, especially with the mess called the Syrian Civil War. This is just an outlet for my opinion, and if you don’t like what I have to say, feel free to disagree, but do so respectfully and intelligently. Otherwise, ship out. Now, on with the show.
The first topic I’m going to write about is a social experiment conducted by ABC’s “What Would You Do?”, a hidden camera show in which actors play out scenarios in order to measure the surrounding bystanders’ reactions (some, including this recent psychology graduate, would say that this is a good means of studying the infamous bystander effect). This episode, which I had found via Upworthy, was filmed ahead of the 12th anniversary of September 11th attacks that everyone is quite aware of, especially those still reeling from its aftermath all over the world. Anyway, the actors involved play the roles of a Muslim store clerk at a sandwich shop in New York, and a bigoted (and some would say “racist”) young man who makes scathing, generalized remarks at the former’s denomination. Several bystanders step in to challenge the actor’s remarks (save for one who shares his sentiments), but it’s not until a uniformed soldier steps in to place his order that things take an interesting turn. Now, many would expect the soldier, who’s probably fought the “Muslim’s” “kin” in either Afghanistan or Iraq, to hold feelings of rage and hatred towards them, but drops the hammer and finishes with, “You have a choice to shop anywhere just like he has a choice to practice his religion anywhere. That’s the reason I wear the uniform — so anyone can live free in this country.” While I’ve come to terms long ago that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were never about such things, it always reassures me to know that such decency and bravery to speak up still exist somewhere on this cold, indifferent, and unforgiving ellipsoid of blue called Earth.
The second topic I want to touch on is an open letter sent by Russian president Vladimir Putin to the people of the United States via the New York Times. I take no sides in global politics, especially now with the ongoing bloodshed in Syria (which has affected my home of Lebanon in more ways than people would expect, but I digress), but at the moment Putin seems to me the most sensible person at the table (otherwise, the lesser of two evils). In this letter, he mentions a solid observation:
“Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.” He also reiterates his stance on who was behind the chemical attack of weeks past which left roughly 1,300 Syrians dead. But he isn’t here to point fingers (at least explicitly). Instead, he urges on the use of diplomacy and dialogue to resolve this issue thus, rather than strike first and ask questions later as done before. But he ends the letter with a warning against American exceptionalism, stating that, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional (not always, though), whatever the motivation”, and I for one believe the consequences of such have spoken for themselves. Of course, not everything is as it seems, especially in politics and in letters like these, but Putin has made some very solid points and we would do well to at least give them a thought (this coming from a cynical misanthrope who knows better than to say this).
So this brings me to the address the title of this post, and to the thesis I didn’t bother putting at the beginning for the sake of suspense or something like it: Where do we stand 12 years and millions of dead bodies later? On the same square we occupied all that time ago, only it’s elevated now thanks to the piles of bones piled up due to the consequences witnessed; we’re still running scared in the dark, holding the same grudges and on the verge of opening old wounds. The only difference I can see between then and now is that we’re more aware of what’s going on, especially in terms of the bloodshed we keep hearing about. But with every coin comes two sides, and in this case, decency and a desire to compromise and move on to bigger and better things than perennially clubbing one another on the head. So let’s take a leaf out of that soldier’s book-hell, let’s follow every other example of decency we’ve been fortunate to witness-and move forward, damn the inevitable setbacks that are sure to happen. and let’s do the right thing and examine every volatile situation that arises from every angle with biases and personal gain cast aside. With that, I conclude this lengthy post and wish you all a goodnight.
Y’all take care now.
R.I.P. To all those who perished on 9/11/01. 9/11/73, and every other day as a result.