Welcome to the 2016 Presidential Election, where the facts are made up, and the problems don’t matter. Last night’s debate was meant to provide voters with insight into how each candidate would address the biggest problems facing our country and the international community as a whole, if the American people choose them as our president. And they did cover a lot of important topics. Jobs, the economy, taxes, racial injustice, security… But there was one topic glaringly absent.
The conflict in Syria is a five year crisis that has internally displaced over 6.5 million of its citizens, in addition to producing over 4 million refugees that have fled the death and despair plaguing their home. Not to mention, the nearly half million people that have been killed in the continuing violence. These numbers shock us. Images of Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach, or Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance, covered in blood and dust…shock us. However, when it comes to one of the most important political discussions of the year, Syria only earns a single honorable mention: “…we’re hoping that within the year we’ll be able to push ISIS out of Iraq and then, you know, really squeeze them in Syria.” And even that mention, has nothing to do with the tens of millions of Syrians suffering under government and Russian bombs.
In this debate, in this election, when does Syria matter? Apparently, only in terms of our own security. It matters when malls in Minnesota are attacked, or bombs go off in New York and New Jersey. It matters when America is faced with having to share the “burden” of providing refuge for individuals fleeing death and destruction…because taking in the world’s most vulnerable individuals is “insane“. For us, these are the times that the conflict in Syria matters. For Syrians living in constant conflict and diaspora, the conflict in Syria matters every day. Syria’s opposition leaders are begging American politicians to stop ignoring what is happening in Syria…to step in and do something. Apparently though, in this election their tragedy doesn’t even deserve two minutes of attention from the front-runners. There was no discussion on plans for stopping the violence or promoting conflict resolution. No statements about aiding countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, that have reached far past their limits and capacities of refugee acceptance. We didn’t hear about how each candidate would appeal to Russia to stop bombing hospitals and apartment buildings. We don’t know what their strategies will be, or in Trumps case, if he even has any. Let’s hope these candidates, at least, are familiar with the word Aleppo.
In a debate that was meant to cover the most important problems that next year’s president will have to face, we heard about taxes. And emails. And beauty pageants. We didn’t hear plans for preventing deaths like Alan Kurdi’s. No solutions for children trapped in besieged cities, like Omran Daqneesh. We didn’t hear about Syria.
Who cares anyway, though. They’re just skittles.