The Syrian Question — how to act when others are hurting each other
For the last couple of years, the news has told lots of heartbreaking stories about all the violence in Syria. Like many other countries in the Middle East, Syria has had a strong rebellion, wanting to overthrow its powerful leaders. But while other nations have either succeeded in their rebellions (Egypt, Libya) or had them calm down at least temporarily (Iran), Syria has been the site of constant fighting, with no sign of it stopping.
The rest of the world knows that this is a dangerous and horrible situation, and many have expressed a desire to do something about it. But what? Some countries have offered help to the rebels, others have offered help to President Assad… and everyone wonders if any of this help will do any good.
As a dog, I don’t nearly have the brain to say what the right answer is with this huge problem. But it does remind me of something I see every day.
You see, I like fighting. I absolutely admit it. I love getting together with my dog friends and tumbling all over the yard like crazy, chewing and pawing and half-biting. Nothing makes me happier. Except maybe when I get to fight with Handsome, playing tug of war with a rope, growling at each other lovingly.
But those aren’t real fights. I’ve been in real fights, and I’m pretty good at them – but I don’t like them. Most of the time, we dogs can resolve issues right away – I see you eating food out of my bowl, I growl and jump on you, you lie on your back and submit, and we’re cool. All is fine. A real dogfight, when both dogs keep going at each other, insisting on beating the other down, just isn’t fun at all. I have to be mean, and the odds are we won’t be friends after it’s done. What’s the good in that?
When Handsome takes me to the dog park, dogs often get into fights. And when they do, lots of other dogs crowd around to watch, maybe to get involved. I don’t. I walk away, bored. But that’s because I don’t care about those dogs. I don’t know them at all.
But when I see friends of mine – human or pooch – fighting, I freak out, and bark like crazy! Should I take a side and help someone? Should I try to stop the fight? Should I run for help? Should I run away in case one of them gets too ferocious and comes after me?! What should I do?!
This is always difficult. And this is what, I think, most of the governments and politicians looking at Syria are dealing with right now. Now, as I said, I can’t help them with that decision, but I have put a lot of thought into what I can do when my friends are involved, and I’ll bet you find yourself in that situation yourself. Here are a few thoughts:
– Time Is My Friend. So much fighting in the world comes from someone reacting in the moment, without thinking. How often have you had to apologize to someone for having said or done something in anger? So, most of the time, when friends fight, I try to keep a loving eye on them, but not get involved for a while. Most likely they’ll work out whatever they have to, given some time.
– What Alternatives Are There? If two mutts at the dog park got into it, their humans would be all over them within a second! There’d be no need for me to do a thing – in fact, Handsome would probably yell at me if I did. Similarly, if two kids get into a fight at a school, the best thing to do is to get a teacher or administrator there; joining the fight will just get you in trouble, when you were just trying to stop the battle!
– What OTHER Alternatives Are There?! You have gigantic human brains! Use your imaginations! What would happen if you threw a bucket of water over the fighters (people do that with dogs all the time)? What if you didn’t join the fight but did something to help one of them out (possibly a good idea, possibly a terrible one)? What if you just started screaming your head off (that’s what we dogs usually do!)? Most fights begin when people haven’t thought hard enough about other ways to resolve differences. Maybe you can do the thinking for them!
– Rate My Own Priorities. While I’m taking that time and watching, I give a good load of thought to what my stake is in this fight. If it’s two dogs I like pretty equally, then most likely I’ll just let them settle their argument themselves, with hopes they don’t get too banged up in the meantime. But what if a dog I didn’t like much was beating up on LouLou or Kuma or Stella, one of my best friends? Oh I’d be very seriously considering getting involved. Even if I got hurt, it would be better than letting my friend be badly injured.
– Rate My Odds! If a neighbor’s cat attacked my friend, I’d have no qualms about jumping right in. The cat’s not going to get anything more than a scratch on my nose before I’ve taken all his fight out – and I wouldn’t even have to hurt him much to do it. But if a mountain lion attacked that same friend, I’d know there’d be nothing much I could accomplish, and so I’d stay out (with great sadness and frustration). Similarly, if a child sees their parents fighting, they can try screaming at them to stop, but it’s far too dangerous for the kid to step into the middle. Take care of yourself first.
– What’s My Strategy? One mistake dogs and people (and governments) get into all the time is to jump into someone else’s fight without having a clear goal in mind. “I like these guys and I don’t like these guys, so I’m diving in.” Using that watching time I mentioned earlier, think about how you’d get away if the fight didn’t go your way – or if it did – and how the fight would change your life. Before the United States invaded Iraq, one of their top leaders compared going to battle to shopping at a store with an “if you break it, you just bought it” policy. The administration ignored him and invaded… and instantly proved him right, to the cost of countless lives and limbs, and over a trillion dollars (and counting). They really should have listened to him.
– Picture Your Tomorrow. Although your emotions might be running high at the moment, step back and picture what tomorrow will look like, when the fight’s over. Will you feel proud for staying out of the fight? Will you regret not having stopped it? Will you feel good for having defended your friend, or will you feel stupid for having gotten involved in what was just an ego battle? One great way to do this is to imagine that you wake up tomorrow with a black eye. Would you be proud or embarrassed to go out in public with it?
As you can see, I haven’t given any clear answers of what to do. There hardly ever are any. But here’s what I deeply believe: I’m of the opinion that fighting should always be the very last resort, only done when it’s known that no other option can work.
And those other options, when someone seems interested in fighting me, include lots of growling, barking, and running, to show people and dogs that fighting me would be a very bad idea! As well as licking, whining, and wagging my tail – to show them that there are so many better ways to interact with me. It’s a good idea to come up with some of these for yourself. Just to have them ready for the future.
Here’s a loud howl in favor of peaceful solutions, both globally and in your own back yard,