• Audrey Chin

Syria… September 11… Why they matter to me

I live in Singapore,  7,800 kilometres away from Syria and 15,400 kilometres from New York City. I’m black haired and under five feet tall. I don’t have an American accent or a navy blue passport, so its unlikely I’ll be shoved overboard a ship or thrown off a plane in the event of a hijacking.  I won’t, now, lose any men in war. My husband is way past the age of the draft. My older son isn’t inclined to volunteer to fight  and my younger son, who’s deaf, won’t get past the medicals.  So why should September 11 have mattered to someone like me? Why do I care about Syria?

Simply – everything is closer now than we think. Syria is only 10 hours away by air, New York City 19 hours. On the ether, access and impact is immediate.

In 2001, when I was still a hedge fund manager, I watched the prices begin to turn red and then the S&P graph plummeting as I sat in my study.  Mere minutes later, my husband and I were gaping at the carnage, just like so many others in New York City, and the rest of America and the world.

In the same way, no matter how far, how separated by culture and religion, the suffering of the civilians in Syria, the pain of wives who’ve lost men and mothers who’ve lost boys, the shame of violated girls, played and replayed over the BBC and VOA, becomes our pain.

We are all human beings, we all share this same earth. This is why Syria matters to me, why September 11 made me afraid.

I believe it was wrong of terrorists to bring their fight onto American soil on September 11 and to target civilians of a government they were against to prove the point. I believe that chemical weapons are dangerous weapons of mass destruction that governments should not unleash on their own citizens.  I believe, for the safety and peace of all of us on this globe, that upstanding people must take a stand against terrorists and against weapons of mass destruction. For, if I don’t take a stand when war is far away, the terror may well come to my doorstep before I know it.

But might and right come in shades of white, sometimes even darker. Just like an unrighteous war, a righteous war too causes blood to stain the earth.  And the earth cries out against such spilt blood.

I must confess that I was distressed when America invaded Iraq. I must confess that I would not go to war for Syrians. I must confess that some of the G20’s call for airstrikes against Syria caused me trepidation.  And I must confess I am relieved the airstrikes on Syria have been postponed and that President Obama will wait for President Assad to hand over his chemical weapons.

Of course, I know this backtracking by Syria would not have occurred but for the vigorous threat of airstrikes.  Moreover, I know that “wait and see” involves parlaying by suited men in gilded halls even as others die. But I hope that diplomacy can offer a less blood strewn path, one that might avoid more years of war, one that might lead to more backing down by Assad and an eventual resolution.

Wishful thinking some may scoff.

All I can say is that history has told me is civil wars are best solved by those involved. Countries are best built by their own nationals, not by the occupation of forces promoting a democracy that does not belong to those whose ground it is.  It is a sad fact that many recent wars for democracy have been fought in countries that are fundamentally divided and without a stable basis for the equal vote by equal people system so treasured in the West.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, Like Pope Francis in Rome, I watch and I pray. I may be applauding the less heroic path but I am not uninvolved. This is my world. It matters to me.

What about you? Do leave a comment.

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