By Bill Mefford, photo by Al Jazeera
Years ago I told a friend about an amazing movie I had seen - The Shawshank Redemption. My friend seemed interested in it, but when I finished telling them the plot they said they would not go see it. I was perplexed and could not understand why they were so adamant about not seeing such an amazing film (and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really should). I know some people do not like movies with such heavy themes and that deal so clearly with justice as this one does, so I assumed they did not want to be depressed. But my friend assured me that was not it. They simply knew that when they saw it they would be compelled to act and it was just easier, given all that they were doing, to avoid more commitments and more guilt.
Honestly, I did not blame them then and I do blame them now. Though I tend to be a person that enjoys taking on more than I can handle, this current time in our nation and in our world has been so heavy and so mean-spirited, lead by donald trump and his mindless MAGA-mobs, that I totally understand if you stop reading here. I understand in fact if you didn’t open this! Sometimes it is too much.
I am hesitant to write this because I can hardly heap one more thing on my heart that taps into my compassion and especially my anger at injustice, but I feel like I must. I have heard so little about the war being waged against the people of Yemen and the suffering they are experiencing that I feel like it must be talked about.
Of course, it has come to light in the wake of the murder and cover-up of Jamal Khashoggi directed by MBS, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi was a critic of MBS, particularly of the suffering they are causing the people of Yemen and he has paid for his criticism with his life. Though it is another post for another time, I cannot help but marvel at the bravery exhibited by journalists today in the face of tyrants such as MBS and trump and their relentless attacks on the media, even last night at a rally in Wisconsin where trump had the audacity to blame the media for political violence that has been directed at……the media. You can’t make this stuff up.
Back to the war being waged upon the people of Yemen, from what I understand the civil war in Yemen, which has been going on since 2015, and is being played out in microcosm of the larger regional disputes between Iran, the dominant Shia Muslim country, and Saudi Arabia., the dominant Sunni Muslim country. The United States has decidedly come down on the side of Saudi Arabia, though neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran (nor the United States for that matter) are upholders of human rights. Far from it.
Due to the horrible handling of the war by the Saudi-led coalition and the blockade of Yemen from much needed humanitarian assistance, there is now widespread famine. As a result, more than 50,000 children in Yemen died from starvation during 2017 and most recently, the United Nations has warned that 13 million people face starvation in what could be "the worst famine in the world in 100 years." 13 million. That is half the country’s population.
And yes, in response to the horrific murder of Khashoggi trump’s first response - without even being asked about yet another arms deal with the Saudi’s - he defended the arms deal because it was a lot of money and that meant jobs for people.
Let me ask, does anyone want a job that perpetuates the deaths by starvation or direct violence of millions of people? Why can’t jobs be created in helping to solve the famine crisis? Do we only create jobs to kill people? And what in God’s name are we doing selling arms to a country with as horrible a human rights record as Saudi Arabia? What the hell is going on here?
I am so entirely at a loss. Seeing the Turkish leader, Erdogan who has almost just as bad a record on freedom of the press and human rights as Saudi Arabia, lecture MBS while the gutless trump defends only our economic benefit at the expense of peoples’ lives is enough to make me throw up. Literally. None of these guys knows or cares one damn thing about human rights. They are tyrant-bully-dictators.
So, as compassion-fatigued as we might be, we must care about the people of Yemen. They are starving to death and trump wants to send more arms to kill them. I guess he think s they can eat bullets. We must call both of our Senators and our Representative (202-224-3121) and we MUST tell them no more arms deals for Saudi Arabia or any country with such terrible human rights records.
I honestly am worn out from just writing this piece. But I would be devastated if I didn’t write it. We will be lost if we do nothing to defend the people of Yemen from the gutless, soulless leaders that are currently on the world stage.
And now I must take action. As you should as well. So, you know what I am going to do once this is posted? I am calling BOTH of my Senators and my Representative and I am telling them, “No more arms deals for Saudi Arabia or ANY country with such a horrible human rights records!”
And do you know why I am doing this?
Because Jesus is dying of starvation and violence in Yemen right now.