Al Rasheed: But Syria-sly: Youth ignorance to the Syrian conflict


By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

“Can we just press pause on Syria? It’s about to be Fashion Week for God’s sake.” 

Apparently people do actually make such uneducated remarks in real life, as the Women’s Humor Twitter account proved by their tweet last Thursday morning. Let’s make one thing clear: This account absolutely does not represent women and obviously not humor, either. But I find it most interesting that the same account that tweeted “nobody ever got laid in flats” has any idea of what is actually going on in Syria, and has any reason to place a pause on this in the first place. My guess is that the more than 300 users who retweeted this tweet in particular don’t have a pause button to press, either.

Sadly, though, these users represent only a minuscule fraction of the people in this country who are completely blind or ignorant to what is happening in Syria, or the implications this intervention could have. There’s no time to click on the Syria hashtag at the side of the Twitter homepage — it’s trending next to “worst pick up lines” —  but they’ll jump on an opportunity to post about how much they love Fashion Week or how much attention to detail they gave the Video Music Awards as the program aired. 

We live in a society where it has somehow become normal to be blind to global issues — even ones that involve the United States. We’ve collectively decided that it is perfectly acceptable to have no knowledge about important matters, despite the fact that information is more readily available to us than ever before.

But the blame for this is two-fold. On one hand we have the news sources themselves that shy from exposing foreign issues, aware of the passive nature usually displayed in deciding what news we choose to hear. The Twitter pages for major news sources such as The Huffington Post, Fox News and CNN, for example, maintain about a 1-to-10 ratio regarding foreign-policy articles and other, less intimidating topics. Basically, if you want to keep yourself informed on global issues, you have to look for them yourself. 

But then there are the observers of the world, who collectively have done very little to combat the stereotype that Americans simply adopt an ignorance-is-bliss attitude regarding foreign policy. If the facts aren’t spoon-fed to us, many of us won’t make the effort to learn them — and the youth are especially guilty of this. 

Perhaps the silence and lack of opinion stems from annoyance with the constant partisan bickering that ensues in this country. While the move for military intervention is backed by both Democrats and Republicans, there are opposing views on whether intervention will be useful. 

Being educated does not require that you get in a heated debate at any given moment to defend your opinion. It simply means that you’ve actually kept up with what is going on in your country — perhaps paid half as much attention to the news as to what is happening on MTV. We belong to a nation that openly allows us to question our government and speak out about the issues that worry us, which some may honestly not realize is a privilege that not every country permits. And we’re executing this power by tweeting about the worst pickup lines. 

Regardless of partisanship, the only ones who truly fail to render respect are those who choose to be blind to the subject entirely, especially when it involves something as crucial as, say, a couple hundred lives at stake and over 2 million refugees — half of whom were children. Judging by the U.S. polls stating that politics is not of value to young individuals, the decline in youth involvement from the 2008 to 2012 election and the fact that multiple political science majors I asked claimed that they “Don’t really have an opinion” on Syria, there’s a lot of respect missing.

Before you continue to ignore articles and headlines about Syria, I urge you to at least understand what’s going on — it really is as easy as searching for “what is happening in Syria.” The Washington Post actually had a blog post last week called “Nine questions about Syria you were too embarassed to ask,” which should give you the tiny amount of information you might desire. Most of our generation could benefit from visiting this website.

And if you haven’t done so already, please make sure you don’t follow @Womenshumor.  

Write Sophia at [email protected].