Friday, August 23, 2013

Couldn't Care Less

Sometimes I treat foreign news like broccoli.  It is important I take it in, but I don't necessarily seek it out.

I know I'm not alone.  We have men and women serving overseas (thankfully diminishing), the largest (and youngest) democracy in the Middle East is undergoing a prolonged coup and/or civil war, chemical weapons are being used in Syria, and a new government is establishing itself in Iran.  Yet, this is all mostly outside of the ken of the average American.

It makes sense.  We have much more important things to focus on here in the United States, right?  And that's not sarcastic - we are constantly on the brink of a self-imposed financial crisis, it seems like people are being shot in schools on a regular basis, and political season is upon us. 

But then I get back to the question that makes me treat foreign news like broccoli - Is a life in Syria qualitatively worth less than a life in the United States?  Because if it is not, and life is the ultimate value, then what is happening in Syria and Egypt should probably win out the news cycle.  More than that, U.S. foreign policy dictates action for both states, with chemical weapons utilization in Syria most likely prompting some form of intervention and a coup (don't call it that!) in Egypt requiring the discontinuation of all military aid.

Reports from Syria are that between 100 and 1,000 rebels and civilians have been killed by a "chemical agent".  The fatalities are alleged to include children.

At least 525 people have died during the "protest" in Egypt, (some project as many as 800) alleged to include 35 in the back of a police van.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood (those same people shot in the back of vans) are alleged to be waging war on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

And we have not even turned to the issue of why these people are fighting.  The aversion to foreign news is understandable.  The good guys and bad guys are hard to identify and nuance is just as pervasive in conflicts abroad as it is in domestic policy.  But violence does not entertain nuance.  It is a brute fact.  There is universality with death.  If one tenth of the violence of Egypt occurred in the United States, it is very likely that many of us would not be going to work today.  The world would stop.  Yet, in another country, when the cries of mourning are in a language we don't understand, it is barely worth a minute on our television sets.

This isn't a guilt trip.  I am as culpable as anyone else.  I just find it curious.  Watching a day's news cycle, I can't say we have more important things to pay attention to.  We just don't care.  Violence has a tendency to beget violence, so we will probably be brought to care soon enough, but even then our knowledge of the situation will be shallow.  The base understanding that we will not be able to ignore is that all life is valuable...and violence does not entertain nuance.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!