#StandWithALeppo

#StandWithALeppo

A monk was teaching a meditation class. He said “if you hear bombs in a neighboring village and your first thought  is where is my family?” Oh they are not there. Everything is ok” than continue to sit and meditate.” Vietnamese Buddhist Monk

There is a striking similarity between the Jewish refugees of World War Two and the Syrian refugees today. Then as now, skepticism of religious and ethnic minorities and concerns that refugees might pose a threat to national security deeply influenced the debate over American immigration policy. The most obvious parallel between the 1930s and today is popular opposition to the admission of refugees. It was strong then, and it’s strong now.

My parents were older. I often asked my mother why no one helped  to save the Jews from being killed in concentration camps.  She said that we really did not believe it was happening. They couldn’t comprehend that the citizens of a cultured and civilized society in modern times were putting people in ovens. It did not sound real.” We heard the rumors. The articles were written on the back page of the newspaper. If was really true, we thought it would be on the front page.”   When the mass extermination and atrocities became public knowledge, she said, ”I did not believe it at the time and had not done anything. I should have chained myself to the White House fence. I should have done something.” They did not have hashtag holocaust back then.

I am reading the heartbreaking twitter voices of Aleppo, watching the videos and seeing the Facebook messages. The words are eerily similar to the things people said in the concentration camps. The waiting to die messages come from parents, children, teachers and journalists. I have a sinking feeling in my stomach as I read the last contact messages. We don’t have the excuse that we weren’t sure it was true. Advanced technology is allowing us to watch innocent people die and is doing nothing to stop it. The world follows Mr Alhamdo, the young English teacher. His video has gone viral and millions of people have seen it. Yet, no one is saving him or his wife and little girl. I read his last message.

It does not make sense that all we can do is #StandwithAleppo. A hashtag is no solution to another humanitarian catastrophe. Big tragedies have big consequences. Are we becoming numb to all the terror in the world? #killingfieldscambodia  #deathcampsdarfur  #sarajevo #rwanda. I thought that since everyone knew what was happening in real-time, they would somehow be saved. The International community and humanitarian organizations would be able to help them. The repercussions for inaction will end up being far worse than the choice to take action would have been. The world missed yet another call from God by ignoring Aleppo. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Agent Orange – The Legacy Of War In Viet Nam

Agent Orange  – The Legacy Of War In Viet Nam

“Vietnam was a country where America was trying to make people stop being communists by dropping things on them from airplanes.” Kurt Vonnegut

Agent Orange was one of the herbicides used against the Viet Cong by the Americans in 1961-1971. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped. Agent Orange contains a very toxic dioxin compound. At the time there was an absence of any humanitarian laws about herbicides. The UN adopted a law in 1978 that prevents the use of herbicides that have long-lasting toxic effects on a case by case basis.

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The goal was to destroy rural forested land and nearby crops depriving guerrillas of food and cover and clearing sensitive military areas. ,The program was also a part of a general policy which aimed to destroy the ability of peasants to support themselves in the countryside, forcing them to flee to the U.S. dominated cities, depriving the guerrillas of their rural support base.

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The campaign destroyed 5 million acres of land and mangrove forests and millions of acres of crops. It was later discovered nearly all the food they had destroyed was not being produced for guerrillas; it was only being grown to support the local civilian population. This contributed to widespread famine, leaving hundreds of thousands of people malnourished or starving.

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Three million Vietnamese including their children have suffered illnesses as a result of being exposed to Agent Orange. Multiple health problems include, cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, extra fingers and toes, cancer, diabetes, birth defects, and genetic diseases. High levels of the toxic dioxin compound are found in the soil around the American military bases where they were stored and will continue to cause illness for the Vietnamese people.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 12.16.28 AMFor the past 52 years, the Vietnamese people have attempted to discuss this legacy of war by trying to get the United States and the chemical companies to accept responsibility for using such dangerous chemicals on civilian populations. The United States says the figures and testing are unreliable and have yet to accept any financial responsibility for the victims.

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The Vietnamese have established “peace villages”, which each host between 50 and 100 victims, giving them medical and psychological help. U.S. veterans of the war and sympathetic people have supported these programs in Vietnam. An international group of veterans from the U.S. and its allies during the Vietnam War working with their former enemy — veterans from the Viet Nam Veterans Association — established the Viet Nam Friendship Village[1 outside of Hanoi.

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We stopped in a place outside Hanoi where victims of Agent Orange wove artwork. As Americans and human beings, we need to support these places when we travel.

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Though my family was always against the Viet Nam War, I feel the guilt of an American. I came from a country who fought for many years in Viet Nam. I guess they thought they were doing something good, but they weren’t fighting for their country and trying to protect their villages and children so after a while they left. I don’t really understand anymore why we had been there at all.

Di du lịch một cách an toàn,

JAZ