2013-05-16 / Letters/Opinion

Finger Pointedly Offensive

Dear Editor,

In aiming for a glib take on the civil war that is ripping Syria apart, Dr. Stephen Finger created a piece that was amazingly callous and badly misinformed. (May 9, The Pointing Finger: “President Assad Is Killing His Own People...”)

While it almost certainly was not his intention, Finger comes across as an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who for two years has been slaughtering his own people in the name of suppressing a rebellion.

“The people [Assad] is killing are people who are trying to kill him,” Finger said. “Is there any government in the world who would not shoot people who tried to do that?” In case Finger has forgotten, the Syrian civil war originally began, like the rest of Arab Spring in 2011, as nonviolent street protests. Rather than folding and fleeing like some other Arab dictators, Assad initiated a brutal crackdown that rapidly evolved into wholesale slaughter. To place the original onus for the violence on the protesters is absurd.

As if this were not enough, Finger further attempts to shift the blame—and downplay the realities of the carnage— by drolling that “The people he’s killing are not Syrian Girl Scouts selling those chocolate cookies that stick together … so that you have to throw out the whole box.”

Over 80,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the protests started two years ago. A great percentage of those murdered have been ordinary Syrians—human beings unlucky enough to be caught between desperate rebel factions and their own murderous government. In light of this, that Girl Scout analogy is one of the most tasteless and shameful things I’ve ever read.

Obviously Finger is not attempting to justify the horror going on in Syria. But in his attempts to be glib about a humanitarian disaster, he has managed to come across as such. As someone with a public forum, he should know better.

Less importantly, but even more awkwardly, a joke comparing Albany to a dictatorship falls flat because of sloppy referencing. It’s already something of a stretch to blithely label a democratically backward state like Belarus as a dictatorship, but to apply this label to a multi-party democracy like Botswana is flatly false. If you’re going to compare Albany to a repressive, authoritarian regime, you had better make sure you’re using accurate examples.

Jonathan Gies

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