Feeling Human when Humanity Evaporates
The unfolding horror in Aleppo was described as "a complete meltdown of humanity" by the UN humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke.
A complete meltdown of humanity.
I don't know what could be a more serious affront to each of us, and to all of us, than that.
And yet, the war in Syria has tested my own humanity. Five years into the fighting, my awareness of and attention to the suffering, to the injustice, to the inhumanity of what is happening there has waned. Without the ties of locality or community, without a sense of some kind of direct or even indirect connection, I've settled for reading a headline here and there. For occasionally digging deeper, but for mostly staying away. I've chosen protecting my heart over opening it because ultimately, I think I feared that caring about Syria would end up leaving me in the same place that caring about global events tends to: broken-hearted over the state of our humanity and generally powerless to do anything about it.
So when the news broke of the unprecedented attacks on civilians in Aleppo, including thousands of children, I not only felt immense sadness and empathy and disgust and disillusionment, I felt shame. Shame that I hadn't been more aware. That I hadn't cared as much as I should have, that I hadn't shared in the suffering of others, and that I'd grown desensitized to reading another sad headline in the news.
So, I reflected on the whole situation and decided that it wasn't too late for a course adjustment. I read about the war; I read and watched eyewitness reports from Aleppo. I cried. I donated some money to an organization doing heroic work on the ground (here are others). But the thing that gave me the most relief was that I took a few hours out of my life and I cared. I really cared that other human beings living with me on this planet, with the same aspirations and hopes for their lives as I have for mine, are suffering indescribably. I might not be able to stop the war. I might not be able to save any lives. But I can stop the insanity that is indifference to the suffering of others. I can care; I can feel empathy. I do care. And as long as there are people who push the outer limits of our humanity, I'm going to push back.
Feature image: Getty.