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Guest Post: Young Blood and Guns

(Today's guest post is by Austin Bodetti. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.)

When my friend asked me, “Austin, there was a shooting in Newtown—did you hear?” I thought that he was joking. It would have been a very strange joke. “No, seriously,” he said. Brian was not joking.

December 14 was a long day, and I would have a long week, but I never stopped checking Wikipedia’s daily updates on the Syrian civil war, which I have done since 2011. On December 14, twenty-eight people died in Newtown. That same day, the Syrian Arab Army executed at least one hundred. The next day, it executed another 131 along with 171 on Christmas. Today, December 29, three hundred more Syrian civilians are dead. Dozens of them are children, including infants.

It is always the same: every day in the Syrian Arab Republic, there is an average of one to two hundred civilian casualties, and none are the result of a down-and-outer with his sporting rifle.

It makes little difference to parents whether their children die from a madman or a mortar. Either way, their daughter is dead, their son is dead, the memories are dead, and they may pray if religious, but their child is dead either way. To these parents and anyone who saw what happened, especially anyone who saw a firefighter carrying a body no bigger than his arms, what happens here matters more than over there, yet Syria is off everyone else’s emotional map: for Americans from the President to my neighbor, dead children suddenly matter when they die on American soil or—in my neighbor’s case—a few miles from your house.

In his televised address given the day of the shooting, the President made an offer: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” He meant tragedies here, not in Syria, which is somewhere over there, but the President had made two moves toward the Free Syrian Army (FSA) only days before. On the 3rd, he threatened military action if the Syrian Army deployed chemical weapons, which are apparently worse than shelling the Damascus suburbs. On the 11th, he recognized the FSA as the true government of Syria. The Syrian Army has spent the last week assembling its chemical weapons anyway, and awe-inspiring American recognition has accomplished little for the FSA and the three thousand or so civilians who have died since December 11.

The shooting is a tragedy, and I, like the President, hope to prevent more of these tragedies, but not in the United States of America and here only…unless the hundred-casualty-a-day massacres in Syria, not to mention what the Syrian Army did to boys my age, Jack Pinto’s age, and younger in the early days of the civil war, are collateral damage of some internal problem. When I hear stories of sons burying their fathers and more often of fathers burying their sons, when an FSA rebel, now deceased, has just time enough to write me, “My friends are dying faster than I can make them,” and when two dozen children dead is nothing new to a country thousands of miles away, it looks bigger than an internal problem.

Remember Newtown, but never forget that children died not only on the other side of the state but also on the other side of the world, where a debate on gun control and some kind words from the President were too little to save them.