The horrific civil war that has raged in Syria for the past two years, has pitched the dying days of a brutal dictatorship against a popular uprising, similar to the revolutions that have visited many Arab countries, over the past few years in what is now called the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring in Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Egypt is quickly turning into the dark days of winter. The peaceful transfer from military dictatorship to democracy is not easy. In most of those countries, the revolution was started as peaceful demonstrations against repression and hopelessness. Demands for reform fell on deaf ears, even though the demands were reasonable for the most part, and were generated by the intelligentsia of those countries. However things did not turn out as planned. The largest country in the region Egypt had democratic elections, which bought the Muslim brotherhood to power and one of their own as president, Mohamed Morsi. Those who started the revolution were not expecting to step backwards by the appointment of religious Muslim leaders who clearly are following an agenda of religious intolerance, suppression of women’s rights, and Sharia law. Of course when you have a democratic election involving all of the people, which in Egypt’s case means 80 million or so, many of whom are illiterate and living in the far-flung corners of the country where only the Muslim brotherhood had taken the time and trouble to provide social services, it is to be expected that the local people would vote based upon their experiences. It is quite likely that turmoil, violence and repression will continue in all of these countries for many years to come. Ultimately the world may not see new democracies but perhaps new military strongmen, leading to the appointment of the next dictators. The rest of the world can only look on and hope for something better.
The war in Syria has become more brutal with every passing day. The Syrian regime is indiscriminately killing armed insurgents as well as its own innocent citizens as it clings on to power. What will be the end result? The continued slide into sectarian violence, old religious animosities and intolerance, and the destruction of the country both physically and economically.
There was much coverage in the media recently about the fact that, in the past two years, the violence in Syria has cost 60,000 lives. How awful. But the violence in the US over the past two years has cost over 60,000 lives. Not, thankfully from bombs, airstrikes and rockets, but our country is in a state of perpetual civil war these days. 300 million guns in the hands of our citizens are leading to the inevitable daily fatal violence. In our country, the Civil War is gang against gang, or the killing of innocent bystanders as the gangs fight it out for drug sales territory. Also, we have the continuous deaths from random killings by mentally disturbed or just plain angry people seeking revenge. We are told that there can be no possibility of amending our constitutional rights to bear arms, as if the founding fathers had in mind the Newtown killings of school children, or the mentally disturbed killer of innocents in a Colorado cinema.
Our 30,000 annual deaths from gun violence included over 10,500 killings by handguns last year. This compares to 58 in the UK and less than 100 in every other developed Western nation.
What is going on in America is crazy. Everyone agrees that hunters and those that wish to enjoy shooting ranges should be allowed to own guns. In many other countries those owners are quite happy to keep them under lock and key at the local police station or their local club. Nowhere in the world do sportsmen own or need semi-automatic weapons with magazines holding up to 100 Bullets. It may be sport to hunt deer or other animals during a limited season, but semi-automatic weapons would never be used for this purpose. They are designed for military purposes to kill. Of course the majority of deaths by gun violence in the US are from suicide or accident. How many families have had their lives ruined by an accidental killing of a loved one or a small child? These are not rare occurrences; they hardly warrant a few lines in the newspapers these days because they are so common.
Unfortunately these killings are going to continue. We should not be shocked at the next school horror, or the death of an innocent schoolgirl at a bus stop, or attacks by mentally deranged people in cinemas and theatres, supermarkets or car parks. This is part of the American way of life today. There is no solution because our political leaders are corrupted by their fear of not being re-elected in the next Congressional go around. So whatever happens, they know they must not upset the NRA, who have made it clear that they will attack any member of Congress who votes against their platform.
There will probably be a new bill passed with great fanfare by our legislators. It will be a watered-down affair that will not really address the true issues of gun violence in our country, nor will it stop the killings from continuing.
The Syrian Civil War will eventually come to an end. The Assad regime will fall, probably to be replaced by religious warlords keeping the country in continuous chaos for many years to come. However the killings will gradually halt, and the lives lost over the last couple of years will not be repeated.
In the US however, we cannot look to any similar relief. Our 30,000 deaths per annum from gun violence will probably continue and may even get worse. Who knows? Will our Congress act to stop this insanity? As the saying goes, “not in my lifetime.”
Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com