White Helmets (2016)

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Apologies if this is a downer, but the topic isn't a cheery one.

There's a documentary on Netflix, on the Syrian Civil War, as if any war is 'civil', focusing on the first responders to bombings: these folks wearing White Helmets.

EDIT: There's some people that believe the White Helmets are part of the Free Syrian Army / Mujahadeen terrorists. I'm not sure who to believe, but this wouldn't surprise me. Like Firemen that are pyros, terrorists playing saviors seems to be a good schtick. Of course not all of them likely are, but enough to poison the well? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmyVKV7NIlI&feature=youtu.be

Many drama queens are making the 2016 election look like ruination, or that the opposing candidates victory will be the end of civilization, as we know it. But these are first world problems, bandied about by the narcissism of the spoiled. This election might be between a bombastic egomaniac and a bombastic crook, but we have a weak Presidency, strong culture, a thriving economy, and our country is not in the midst of a civil war, with many external factions picking sides and lobbing bombs from the relative safety of their Jets or drone bunkers, half a world away. }}

It's easy to debate topics like Syria, when it's not our families and neighbors living in a state of perpetual uncertainty of whether every breath is the last one before a Russian Bomb, American Missile or ISIS IED or Artillary Shell is going to make you or your loved ones the next statistic on some collateral damage tally sheet.

White Helmets is a saddening and maddening documentary filmed as a month in the life of Syrian Rescue workers. Every plane, explosion, car-bomb, means they get to go the scene and dig through the rubble to try to save the lives of the guilty or innocent, along with taking a chance that the plane might come back, an ISIS asshat might use you as target practice, or you discover unexploded ordinance, assuming the building and rubble doesn't collapse on top of you. But hey, it's a living.

These documentaries are shot to intentionally bond you to the plight of the people on the ground; these heros. To abstract you from the realities that might make you dislike the characters (or question their motives/agendas), to avoid the messy political and cultural realities that lead to their plight. You're being manipulated to pay attention to just their humanity, spirit and suffering, and not their opinions on whether Israel or America should be eradicated. Just focus on them, trying their best to help their community and family, no matter how shitty that community and culture is.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'd even say it's a necessary reminder. No matter how much you disagree with others, they are people, making the best of situations. And there should be more to unite us than divide us, even if there isn't. Like it or not, what they do is to try to save life, and no matter which political side you're on, you should still be on the side that wants to save lives. And respect those who would endanger their own lives to achieve that.

It's easy to rationalize why you support a bombing of terrorist bastards like ISIS, while forgetting the consequences to people who happen to have made the grave mistake of being born on the wrong side of the world, or who are bonded to their community/culture that happen to have some beliefs that lead to these problems. Then to be in situations where they have few choices and opportunities. And where helping your families and community might be a choice between risking your life to save folks regardless of their beliefs (and some of those you save might heal up enough to murder your whole family) -or- to join a militia for hire, and kill others, because that's what you're paid to do.


The show is good or bad. Depressing or inspiring. Tear jerking, or inflaming of anger or bile. Propaganda or agnostic. People will take away from these shows (and every experience) what they want to. I'm reminded of the frustrating realities that in life and politics, sometimes there no good answers.

  • Do you let ISIS gain a beachhead and nations to further their zealotry, and destroy more lives?
  • Do you get involved in a conflict that is none of your business, and make those involved resent you?
  • If you get involved, do you save American lives by bombing from thousands of feet, or thousands of miles away? (Knowing that will cost more of their innocent lives, but save more of yours?)
  • Or do you destroy your political career, by putting boots on the ground to trade American lives for saving Syrian ones?
  • Or do you just write off and ignore their suffering, and let external actors kill the innocent over past greivances and agendas (like ISIS, the Assad Regime, the Rebels, the Russians, and the Turks do, all with different excuses for their actions)?

It's a shitty reminder that the world can sometimes be a cruel and bitter place. While there are often no good answers, everyone is still making choices. With no perfect choices, all the imperfect ones come with consequences.

Everyone should have to sit through, and be reminded of the unpleasant consequences. You can harden yourself to them, or soften yourself to them, but neither will change the outcomes... only how the outcomes impact you. Whether you are tempered by it, or broken by it, life and death will go on without you.

EDIT : Since I was leery of the over-the-top propaganda in the film, and some of it looked suspicious, it was only natural that it would win the Oscar. Other Documentaries that spoke more truth to power, or were more viewed/liked didn't stand a chance, as they weren't far-left anti-War documentaries. Once the Cinematographer couldn't attend the Oscars because of a Trump policy, he was a shoe-in to win -- symbolism before substance: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/26/us/white-helmets-oscar/