Syria was the homeland of my great-grandfather, so it pains me to see so much of it lying in ruin. When I first heard about the “Syrian Civil War,” as it was then presented, I peeked at the photos online of little girls with their heads blown off, fathers carrying their dead children out of a bombed-out building, and piles of dead bodies strewn across the blighted cityscape. I was shocked, moved, troubled.
Later, I learned that some of it may have been caused by the secret machinations of my own government, for reasons that are too complex to explain here, and I felt a pinching fury in my gut. By no invitation of its own, Syria seemed to be hosting the theatrical spectacle of the modern malaise, displayed in all its grisliness and ghastliness. So I wrote an “Ode to Syria”:
O, great land of Syria
Without you, the world would be so much drearia!
I speak to you as I would speak to my ancestral land
For you are like the fingers that lead back to my hand
My great-grandfather could never have dreamed
that many of his people have shouted and screamed
As some were slaughtered and some were shot
and their bodies were left to rot
Could a man so handsome as Asad
Be a devil with a carefully erected facade?
Or had he been unfairly maligned
in an era which judges even the kindest leaders as unkind?
Oh, how it pains me to see Syria spill its blood
because it is to the world what water is to mud
In days gone by, caravans passed through
And many have said, “Syria, we have conquered you”
But Syria remained Syria
O, Syria — without you the world would be so much drearia
And now people pour out of Syria like blood out of a wound
It’s as if one of the greatest sand dunes has been de-duned
Perhaps, alas, we need not remove Asad
But rather the terrible truth that “hero-nations” hide under their own facade.