Let me get to Syria in a minute. But first this...
It was a cold night last winter. I noticed I was out of food and vodka. And by "food," I mean tequila. So I walked to the liquor store. After picking up a few bottles of vodka and tequila... and bourbon (because you can never have enough bourbon), I was stopped on my way back home by two friendly, well-dressed young men. They wanted to talk to me about religion. My nose was red and my fingers were numb, but I figured, "Hey, these guys could someday be my Facebook friends." So the three of us stood on the sideway and we talked about religion.
After a few minutes of conversation, I said, "You guys are so sure of yourselves. But if you were born in, say, France, under different circumstances, at a different time, you wouldn't think in the same way. Plus, you'd be wearing berets."
Then I continued, "You're telling me to believe what you believe. But why do you believe what you believe?" One of the young men replied, "This is how I was taught by my parents." I asked, "Wait- your parents discovered the cure for cancer?" He responded, "Huh? No they didn't." I asked, "They didn't? Then why should I care what they think?"
When it comes to the situation in Syria, both professional and amateur pundits are so sure of themselves. But why? Do they know something I don't? (Wait, Bruce Willis was dead the entire movie?!) I have been watching the experts on TV. They've not offering new information. They're spouting their opinions. Does your opinion carry more weight because you're on television? Charlie Sheen is on television. Paula Abdul is on television.
People are saying that to interfere in Syria is "immoral." Immoral? Larry King is married to a hot, blonde woman. That is immoral. But to make a stand against painful, needless suffering? Is that immoral? Can you prove it? People are so confident about their own morality. And that's fine. But unless Martin Luther King Jr. comes back from the dead and tells us that striking Syria is immoral, I don't value the opinion that we shouldn't take a stand against Syria any higher than I value the opinion that we have a moral obligation to do something.
A desperate dictator poisoned his own people with deadly gas. My conscience tells me that the United States cannot allow this evil act to go unpunished. What should we do about it, specifically? How the hell should I know? I can't even remember where I put my car keys. Maybe we should take out al-Assad's entire regime. Maybe we should target him specifically, kill him, and call it a day. Or maybe we should just rough him up a little... maybe just cut off a toe. But we should do something. Crimes against humanity should not go unpunished. Murder should not be ignored. And if you think it's immoral to get involved in Syria, then you're saying that I have an immoral conscience. And if that's true, then tell me why. Tell me why you're a more moral person than I am. Tell me why, when it comes to Syria, you are right and I am wr... OMG I left them in my jeans pocket! Okay -- now I remember.
The situation in Syria is not a partisan issue. Or at least it shouldn't be. If you don't like President Obama, fine. But appreciate the moral dilemma that he is in. To "mock" his strategy here makes one sound like an attractive moron. And speaking of being attractive, conservative Sarah Palin wrote, "If we are dangerously uncertain of the outcome and are led into war by a Commander-in-Chief who can't recognize that this conflict is pitting Islamic extremists against an authoritarian regime with both sides shouting 'Allah Akbar' at each other, then let Allah sort it out." To which group do the dead children, killed by lethal nerve gas, belong -- the Islamic extremists or the authoritarian regime? Adults killed children... and the moral thing to do is to just let them all sort it out? Should we have punished Jerry Sandusky, or should we simply have let him and his victims sort it out?
And the liberal side is no better. Famous ideologue Noam Chomsky said that missile strikes against Syria would amount to "war crimes." Is Chomsky aware that a dictator killed hundreds of his own people by infecting them with sarin gas? Yeah, well, maybe to take a stand would make us, technically, "criminals." But technically, Dorothy was also a criminal. Those red slippers didn't belong to her. But she sure saved a hell of a lot of munchkins. (And, no, it's not a "crime" to stop a dictator from killing people with poison gas, any more than it's a crime to throw water on the witch.)
Noam Chomsky is so sure of his high-mindedness. He doesn't have any inside information about Syria. So why am I so morally hesitant, and yet he is so self-assured in his intellectual and principled righteousness. Did he cure cancer? He's not a saint. He's a college professor! Have you been to college? The professors never even answer your emails! And would it kill them to hand out a study guide before the test?
The problem with people like Sarah Palin, who just opposes whatever the president supports, and Noam Chomsky, who just opposes whatever our country does, is that they are slaves to a political agenda. Their thoughts about any situation are well known, long before the situation even exists. So... what's the point of even expressing their opinions? Or, more importantly, what's the point of even listening to their opinions? It's like asking Ron Jeremy how he feels about porn, or asking Jessica Simpson about her opinion on getting more publicity for herself. We already know what they're going to say... which makes what they say less valuable. (But just in case you didn't know, Jessica Simpson is okay with porn, I think. And Ron Jeremy's clothing line is now available at Macy's!)
Here is my opinion... and it's not based on what my parents told me and it's not based on my unwavering political ideology or my love or hatred of President Obama and it's not based on Facebook posts and it's not based on my insistence that I am more moral than you. Here is my opinion...
I don't care what anyone says -- I really liked that Tom Cruise movie Vanilla Sky. Yeah, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines is kind of a rip-off of that old Marvin Gaye song. But, and I know this is musical blasphemy to admit, but I like the Robin Thicke song better. And, also, we have a moral obligation, not just as Americans, but as human beings, to care about the needless suffering that happens around us... whether that means taking out Syria's leader or taking a different action or whatever.
Yes, we allow starvation, disease, and violence to happen in other parts of the world. My response to that is we should do what we can to prevent starvation, disease, and violence in other parts of the world.
Yes, military action costs money. But whether or not we do anything in Syria will have no effect on your kid's school budget. The funds are allocated differently. It's like when people complain about A-Rod's salary, comparing his monthly check to that of a hardworking fireman or teacher. Yeah, he makes too much. But if they paid him less, the firemen don't get the extra money. (Besides, A-Rod needs those millions of dollars in order to defend himself against the steroid accusations... and also for the steroids.)
Yes, we can't be naïve and our international strategy should be based, in part, on our own self-interests. But to think that, in the year 2013, international politics can be separated from our own self-interests is naïve. The Internet. Technology. High-Speed Communication. The Psy Gangnam Style YouTube video. There's no such thing as "isolationism" anymore. What happens in other countries affects us.
Yes, even if we bomb Bashar al-Assad, Syria will still be mess. It's not like I would invite either side on this civil war to my slumber party. (But I am still waiting for an RSVP from some people. Yes, Pippa, I'm talking to you.) But a dictator killed innocent people, not just soldiers, but innocent people -- children! -- with illegal poison. You don't think it would benefit the people of Syria to take this a*shole out?
Here is my opinion...
I'm not fully sure what we should do yet. But when something really bad happens, to do nothing is not taking a moral stance. It's hiding your head in the sand. But if you disagree, tell me why. And I don't just want to hear your opinion. That's not good enough.