Bob Schwartz

Syria Again (Weary and Helpless)

I’ve stopped counting the number of posts I’ve written about Syria. The most recent back in December, right before Christmas, was Syria: Things Fall Apart: “This is a season of light for many people, but in Syria it is getting darker every day.”

More than three years ago, the post was Syria and the Fog of Or Else:

Hints of chemical weapons allowed Obama to employ his own red line: no chemical weapons—or else. Because of world history and established international agreement, certain weapons of mass destruction are deemed so out of bounds that action is semi-automatically called for. That is, using chemical weapons trumps sovereignty. The international community might stand by for the internal slaughter of thousands, no matter how inhumane, but it is quasi-obligated to answer when certain civilized conventions come into play. In other words, the chemical weapons would offer a license to act, even if the other inhumanities didn’t

A license to act—if we knew what we could reasonably achieve, if people believe that it is worth losing lives to enforce the ban on chemical weapons, if it is actually about chemical weapons, if acting doesn’t make matters worse, if we knew exactly what we planned to do and how we would deal with all the possible aftermaths. None of which is clear now. None of which is likely to be clear anytime soon.

Welcome to the fog of or else.

The “hints” of chemical weapons aren’t just hints any more. They are being dropped in bombs. If it was dark in December just before Christmas, it is darker in April, just before Passover and Easter. Why mention those holidays? I could try to explain by making some clever intellectual and theological connections, but I’m really not sure, and anyway I’m not up to it. I am weary of writing about Syria. And I am weary of nonsense, and of comfortable leaders making others suffer, and of comfortable leaders pontificating and politicizing and pretending to be more moral and smarter than they actually might be. They may mean ill or well, but meanwhile, there is the fog and the darkness and things falling apart in Syria. And most of us are helpless to make it better.

Walt Whitman – Song of Myself

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, LI

Song of Myself, I

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy

Note: Not much to say about Walt Whitman that isn’t already said. Above is a picture of the Walt Whitman Bridge, connecting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey across the Delaware River. Besides bridges, Whitman also inspired modern poetry and pieces of modern life. The Body Electric that he sung is what he lived, envisioned and wrote, and is still more than we understand. Please read Walt Whitman.