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OTHER VIEW
Other View: Aleppo is about the sanctity and dignity of each and every human life

The tragedy — no, the genocide — in Aleppo is unfolding before our eyes. Less than a generation after the Srebrenica massacre and Rwanda, after “never again.”

Here we are again.

And yet there is also something different about this genocide. I don’t recall another that had so many ardent supporters on the two sides.

A Turkish friend wrote on my Facebook wall: “May Allah destroy all who help this massacre happen — Iran.” I reminded him that the destruction of a whole country is tantamount to genocide, but there was no retraction.

An Arab friend, a leading scholar of Islamic law, has gone on repeated anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian and anti-Family of the Prophet (ahl al-bayt) rants on his Facebook wall. Again, no retractions.

Some Iranian Shiites have not fared any better, resorting to anti-Sunni, anti-Arab rants. No retractions.

As a Muslim, I am particularly agonized by this. We are a people who have been raised to speak out for justice, even if our voices shake. We are a people who are to speak the truth and stand up for justice even if it is against ourselves, against our parents and against our community. What a lofty and beautiful moral stance, and how short we have fallen of that moral high ground.

I see most of us supporting the “side” that lines up with our sectarian affiliation and geopolitical interests. The Muslims who view the crisis of Aleppo as primarily a Russian/Iranian/Bashar al-Assad genocide of a defenseless population have been sharing the “Final Messages” of people of Aleppo lposts.

On the other side, Muslims who have celebrated Assad’s victories as “liberating” Aleppo from Islamic militant groups (Nusra/Jaysh/FSA) have resorted to quoting freelance journalist Eva Bartlett, who is featured on Russian-backed sites RT.com and Sputnik. They have taken to questioning the “final messages” from Aleppo.

Something about all of this seems rotten. We are determining our moral stance on a genocide based on our geopolitical commitments. Somewhere we were told that every human life is sacred, that every life has the breath of God inside. Somewhere we were told that to take one human life is as if to take the life of the whole of humanity, and to save one human life is as if to save the whole of humanity. Somewhere we were told that the life of a human is more sacred than the Ka’ba itself.

And all along, hundreds of thousands of Syrians die.

If your stance on Syria is shaped by whether the killing is being done by Russia/Iran/Assad’s genocidal government, or by Nusra/Jaysh/FSA genocidal forces, you still haven’t gotten the part about the sanctity and dignity of each human life.

If we cry out against the victims for one side, and have not a mumbling word to say about the other victims, our partial mourning is rooted in a flawed sectarianism.

It’s not the identity of the killers that makes it a crime. It’s the humanity of the victims, the dignity that each of us is afforded by the virtue of having the breath of God inside us.

Let us never succumb to lining up our moral commitments with geopolitics of a nation-state. It’s the geopolitical politics that have to line up with dignity of human lives, not the other way around.

May it be that we stand up not for Iran, not for Turkey, not for Saudi, not for Russia, not for the United States, but only for justice. This is not about Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Iranian. It’s about right and wrong. It’s about human dignity.

As a Muslim, I find my community in selective outrage. The same desire for moral consistency applies to us as Americans. Today I watched with admiration the powerful words of Ambassador Samantha Powers speaking at the United Nations, addressing Russia and Iran:

“Are you truly incapable of shame? . . . Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child, that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out, just a little bit?”

Yes, these are powerful words. I found myself nodding in agreement. Yet I wonder where the same moral outrage was in our own country’s use of drones against Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Syria. Where was the same outrage when we bombed wedding parties and blew grandmothers to smithereens? Where was this moral display in Abu Ghraib and the forced feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Where is the moral speaking to power when we destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan, enable the Israeli occupation of Palestine by providing both military and political cover for Israel, and expedited shipment of weapons to Saudi Arabia to wreak havoc upon Yemen?

As an American, I find the United States in selective outrage. We are shocked that the Russians would interfere in U.S. elections, when Americans have a long history of regime change in Iran (1953), Chile (1973) and elsewhere. We are aghast that the Russians would bomb defenseless populations, when we have bombed civilian populations for so long in so many places that it is not an aberration: It is tradition.

As the home to both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the United States has always been both a dream and a nightmare, particularly toward poor and marginalized people inside U.S. borders and in the global South.

I want us as Muslims to be a moral people. I want us as Americans to live up to the meaning of our creeds.

No, I don’t know how to stop the bloodshed in Syria. Yes, we feel helpless, angered, sad, devastated.

Let us do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering of Syrians. And let us become a moral people who put human dignity above geopolitical and sectarian interests.


Editorial
Our View: State fails evaluations test

When lawmakers agreed to a dramatic and long-term funding boost for the state’s teachers two years ago, they insisted that the money be tied to performance — that teachers be held accountable and rewarded for good work.

That notion was at the heart of the Idaho “career ladder,” the new pay structure for public school teachers designed to stem the flow of good teachers who move to other states for better money. Teachers liked the deal because they’d get better pay; lawmakers liked it because it added some accountability and would keep good teachers in Idaho.

But now, the system may be in jeopardy.

Idaho Education News reported last week that 99 percent of evaluations were incomplete or inaccurate, according to an audit commissioned by the state Department of Education conducted before the career ladder went into place. The news shocked lawmakers, who have hinted the audit may figure into their projected schedule to add another $57 million to the program when the Legislature reconvenes next month. They’re also peeved that state education officials sat on the report for months — it came to light only because journalists at Idaho Education News filed public records requests to obtain the results.

Now, both sides are pointing fingers. Educators say the audit doesn’t show a full picture because it was conducted before the career ladder came into place and didn’t take account new criteria that have since been adopted. And local superintendents say districts haven’t received clear instructions on what, exactly, they’re supposed to be measuring in the evaluations.

Lawmakers say the dismal results point to a breakdown in the entire system, and that the results clearly show state education officials don’t have a handle on their part of the bargain in the career ladder system.

One thing, though, is clear. The report does not mean that 99 percent of the state’s teachers are doing a poor job. Step into just about any Magic Valley classroom, and you’ll know that’s not the case.

What it does show, however, is that state education officials need an immediate intervention. Clear policies for how to evaluate teachers must immediately be made clear to individual districts, and there must be more consistency across districts in how teachers are evaluated.

We’re disappointed state education leaders haven’t articulated that in the fallout.

“Our intent was to help. It was not an ‘I gotcha,’ ” State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said in response to the audit. “What we found out from this data was that the superintendents and districts are working extremely hard to follow the law.”

Yes, superintendents may be, but state leaders clearly are not. It’s the only decisive conclusion to draw from the report, and in the responses from local district leaders who seem to be scratching their heads.

State officials knew there were problems in the summertime but failed to address them publicly. That’s caused an enormous amount of doubt heading into the legislative session. And their reactions — particularly Ybarra’s — seem on par with “the dog ate my homework.”

If state education leaders want to retain the public’s trust and support — and lawmakers’ commitment to continue funding the career ladder — they must get a handle on the evaluations. And quickly.


Mailbag
Letter: Councilman appreciates interest

On Dec 7, the Hagerman City Council unanimously passed Hagerman City, Gooding County Idaho Resolution No. 2016-02. The purpose of this resolution is to encourage our Gooding County commissioners to deny the special-use application of Shaw Shooting for the expansion of their training facility.

This council consists of our Council members; Carl Jefferies, Jay Hauser, Steve Bland, Michael Winthers and our mayor, Noel C. Weir.

We want to thank all of the citizens who attended our Dec. 7th Council meeting. It is always a privilege to have our City Hall filled to overflowing concerning matters that must be addressed by our Council and by our community.

Thank you for your article in the Times-News on Dec. 9.

Jay Hauser

Hagerman City Council member