Have we lost all empathy for fellow human beings?
NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Wednesday featured a report on Syria’s government dropping chlorine gas on civilians in Aleppo. It was preceded by a remarkable warning: “This report contains the sound of children in distress.” I promptly turned the radio off. I knew that the children’s voices would be extremely upsetting. I also had a pretty good sense of what the report would say. Sure enough, upon reading the print version of the report, I learned that approximately 100 people had been gassed, including 40 children. Imagine the terror and confusion that those children must have felt, choking on poisonous gas as bedlam broke out all around them. This is the reality that innocent civilians face every day in war-torn Syria.
Even more tragic is that fact that, if some of these children and their families manage to escape and find their way to a refugee camp, they will be blocked from resettling in Donald Trump’s America. Trump has said, flat out, he will forbid any Syrian refugees from entering the United States if he is elected. Twenty-five cowardly Republican governors vowed to block Syrian refugees from entering their states. Chris Christie was the most emphatic, declaring, “I don’t think that orphans under 5 should be admitted to the United States at this point.”
Everything about this story breaks my heart – the brutality of the Assad regime and ISIS in Syria, the plight of people caught in that country and the cold-hearted response of politicians who seem to have lost any shred of empathy for their fellow humans. I keep thinking of Emma Lazarus’ immortal words, enshrined at the foot of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Have we really sunk to this level? We will find out Nov. 8.