Saturday, May 14, 2011

As many as 850 unarmed Syrians have been gunned down by their own government

The demonstrations of the ordinary people in Syria are awesome, for they have demonstrated exemplary courage and zeal for all the world to see. Their demonstrations have exposed the readiness of the Syrian government to crush its own citizenry. Already its troops haves gunned down more than 850 people in cold blood.

The Syrian regime has rarely exposed the violent and terrifying force by which it enforces the social order. For us as observers it is easy to be seduced by scenes of apparent order and social conviviality among the ordinary Syrians. The hard reality of life there is otherwise, for they know, and have known for generations, how disciplined and inhuman the repressive measures of their government can be. As in every country, a potential for violence shapes the course of every-day life, even if that violent potential is seldom exposed. What deserves our admiration is the readiness of the Syrian people, fully aware of what their government might do to them, to come out on the streets to demand a more responsive administration -- in the face of an army trained to shoot them down without mercy or remorse.

It is hard for us to internalize what is going on. Are the American people ready to pay such a price for the right to assemble freely, to collectively choose their own leaders, and establish more equitable rules of social administration?

Where will this bitter asymmetric struggle lead? In a dangerous game of cat and mouse, people demonstrate in one place only to flee when the army appears, while in the mean time demonstration break out in other places. For these civilians the risks are potentially mortal; for the military they are minimal.

Even so, for the government the stakes are momentous. How momentous is demonstrated in the extreme measures it has taken, murdering its own citizenry without shame. In the words of the ancient prophet:
"Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame ...; they do not even know how to blush." [JER 8:12]

Helpless as the rest of us are, we can only cry out against such cruel and inhuman brutality by a regime that has total power -- and pray that a resolution to such a clash of interests will soon be found.

[For a recent statement of the situation click on the title above.]

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