In a viral video circulating around Twitter, a mother holds up the lifeless corpse of her toddler, whose neck can no longer support the weight of her own head. The mother looks into the camera and screams, “Look at this!” and “Where are our rights?” In another post, a group of fighters has pulled over to the side of the road and placed a prisoner with his hands tied behind his back on the curb. One shouts, “Another pig gone,” while the unit fills its victim’s body with multiple rounds from machine guns. Not far from both scenes, a jihadist, AK-47 in hand, stomps on the chest of a dead human rights activist. Covered in dust, her face smothered by a cinder block, she has been raped and stoned to death. Around the same time, our president unwinds with a round of golf and caps his evening with a friendly phone-in appearance on Judge Jeanine’s Saturday night Fox News show. “It’s like some people go to lunch,” he informs her, “[Turkey] fight[s] with the Kurds, it’s what [Turkey] does.”
This week, the White House caved to the wishes of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian strongman, and greenlighted a military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria. Trump broke America’s promise to our vital Kurdish allies, who faced the brunt of the fight against ISIS in exchange for US protection. He severely damaged America’s trustworthiness on the global stage by withdrawing US forces from northern Syria.
With a sheer lack of empathy, Trump brushed aside Kurdish cries as the wailings of those destined to die — “it’s what [Turkey] does.” Single-mindedly focused on forging a legacy as the man to pull us out of the Middle East, he deemed the loss of Kurdish life as inevitable as people eating lunch. He has created an opportunity for ISIS militants to break out of custody. And a mother now caresses her murdered daughter because our president can’t make himself care about slaughter abroad.
The News recently ran a column, “An appeal to pre-meds,” detailing the nightmarish experience its author had with a doctor who put her brother through strenuous tests for a condition he was unlikely to have. The doctor was smart, the author concluded, but did not consider the “emotional needs” of his patient and withheld vital information about his care. The author cautioned prospective pre-med students against choosing to become a doctor merely because no other path seems to lead to a stable income; you have to care to be a good doctor.
You only need to look at our alumni list, filled with statesmen and diplomats, to know that income isn’t the only motivator for Yalies. We have been hand-selected by admissions officers for our fancy leadership positions and prestigious awards in high school; many of us have been bred to covet power and recognition. So, when we finally get to Yale and don’t have a clear path in front of us, many of us look to the courses of study that analyze the practices of power and are limited by application, granting perceived prestige: Ethics, Politics and Economics, Global Affairs, Grand Strategy.
But drafting policy and conducting diplomacy are not more acceptable as “fallback” professions for an uncaring analytical student than being a doctor is for a money-motivated science geek. You may not see them, but there are real people on the line in both professions. The ethics component of EP&E requires only one ethics class and one in political philosophy, but that does not absolve us of the responsibility to reflect on why we want to be policy practitioners and if we really care about the lives at stake. Because when we don’t care, we end up ignoring and then enabling horrifying human rights abuses, like those in Syria, when we’re in positions of power.
When given the opportunity to choose a Yale Undergraduate Lifetime Achievement Award winner last year, we selected George W. Bush to be the recipient. It’s no secret that Yale’s campus is overwhelmingly left-leaning; look only at the torrent of opinion pieces in the News these last couple of weeks. But, if that’s the case, why did we choose to honor a man who led us into the Iraq War under false pretenses, allowed state-run torture and advocated for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage?
Because he was the president, and he had the ultimate power in this country even though he wielded it against our principles. Not only did we honor Bush, but, while the original email to vote for the award stated — in bold! — that the winner would come to Yale’s campus, we accommodated him and sent a delegation to Dallas instead. Ask yourself what our priorities are if we choose to honor a man we wholeheartedly disagree with just because he was president.
Donald Trump sees the presidency as nothing more than a prize, and, because he is not concerned for the people his flippant actions affect, we are witnessing an international tragedy in northern Syria. Don’t be the one in power to cause the next humanitarian crisis. Don’t be our next lasting shame.
JACOB HUTT is a junior in Silliman College. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .