By Guest Author Dana Visalli
The second camp I visited in my visit to Lebanon was considered more hazardous than the first. It is much larger and has been in place longer; a raid there a year ago netted many guns. Some women will ‘trade sex for money’ at the camp—with both Lebanese and Syrian men attending the services.
Tarek and I never really quite obtained permission to enter the camp, so we spent our time standing on a road passing through it, talking with a gaggle of men and children that gathered around us until we were kicked out. There was general agreement among those gathered that the United States was behind the violence being perpetuated in Syria by the fundamentalist rebel groups, especially ISIS and Al Nusra. I asked them why the United States would want to destroy Syria, and an answer flew from the mouth of an old man almost before I finished the sentence: “Israel. Israel wants the Arab world broken up into small pieces,” he said, “and it wants to see the Arabs fighting against one another.” He probably had that about right; as I noted in a previous report, there is an Israeli action plan published in 1982 that calls for fragmenting the Arab world.
At just about that time, the Lebanese owner of the camp happened by. Upon learning that I was an American, and was there out of a sense of concern for the Syrian refugees, he said he had a story to tell me. It seems there was this very poor man, who complained to God about his poverty. God replied that he would give the man a donkey, a sheep and goat, and he could make a living with these animals. But soon the man was back, complaining that he couldn’t sleep at night, because the animals constantly made a racket. God advised him to get rid of the donkey and things would be better; but still the other animals were rambunctious and wouldn’t let the man sleep. So God advised him to get rid of the goat, and then to get rid of the sheep; then at last the man could sleep and he was happy; he had completely forgotten about the original complaint that had initiated the cycle of emotions.
“And you Americans,” said the owner, “are like this poor man. You create this enormous problem out of your own unhappiness, destroying the country of Syria with your weapons and ignorance and maliciousness, driving the Syrian people out of their homes. And then afterwards you look upon the results and ask with feeling, “My God what happened here, this is a terrible situation, how can I help.”
To take in the magnitude of this human diaspora, one has to take the story of any one refugee individual or family, and multiply that by the 12 million Syrian refugees that currently exist, or for full effect multiply by the 60 million people on the planet today who have been driven out of their homes, by far the majority of them by violence.
The impoverishment of these people’s lives is analogous to the impoverishment of the global biosphere that is currently taking place on the planet, with the widespread loss of plant and animal populations and species. Anyone willing to take this all in will see clearly that the human species is challenged to change behaviors and strive to learn what it means to live ecologically balanced lives. I find such an inquiry extends from where I get my food to whether I am willing to pay for a nation’s nuclear arsenal. It is a personal journey for each individual.
Dana Visalli is a biologist living in Washington State; he has visited Iraq and Afghanistan often and attempted to visit Damascus in Syria in March of this year. He has essays on Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam at www.methownaturalist.com