Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rations, Wishes and the Syrian Regime

Photo is courtesy of the Facebook page  We are all Hamza Alkhateeb.
With Syria on my mind, I stopped at a local restaurant for takeout falafel for lunch yesterday. The owner, a Syrian immigrant, is usually happy to serve up a side of politics with my lunch. Yesterday's side was a little different. I asked her what she thought of the current talk of the U.S. attacking the Syrian regime. She expressed her concern for civilians but said it has to be done. She went on to tell me that she believes the Americans will aim for precise targets and do what they can to spare civilians' lives. As we waited for my falafel to cook, she leaned over the counter to tell me about food shortages and the financial struggles of her friends and family in Syria. I asked about water and electricity which she confirmed are scarce. I then shared that my family experienced very similar struggles courtesy of the Syrian regime during the Lebanese civil war. She shook her head in disgust. 

As she packed my pita bread, I shared the story of my mother and I waiting in line for many hours for flour in Beirut to bake our own bread (unheard of in a city the size of Beirut but bakeries were closed). This was one of the many occasions when the army of the first Assad shelled Lebanese roads and bridges closing supply routes and forcing the rationing of what little was available. She seemed a bit surprised but I realized that I was speaking to someone who's heard about but not experienced the realities of war. 

I should have stopped there, but I went on to share one more thing.  I told her that my wish as a child was for my parents to let me leave home so I can make my way to Syria and personally kill Assad. Yes, I said that. I personally wanted to kill Assad to put an end to the suffering of so many, particularly my family. I was confident (or foolish to think) I could reach Syria somehow and get close enough to kill him. Fortunately or not, my wise parents did not agree and I did not get my wish. The woman looked at me puzzled, shook her head and said, "I have never heard anything like this before." Her response bothered me but I'm not sure why. I suspect Syrian children living through their war now more easily identify with my childhood experiences and state of mind. 

But what if I did leave home, reached Damascus and made my wish come true? One thing is for sure; I wouldn't be here writing about it today.

Today, as a Lebanese American, I'm praying that my country delivers decisive, definitive and devastating strikes to the son of Assad and his lieutenants. I'm also praying that Syrian children will live to write and talk about it.