We all know plenty about Trump and Assad, two men who are not only politicians, but actually the leaders of their respective countries. Neither of them has an enviable media profile in the UK, but Assad always comes in way below Trump. If Trump tweets that Assad is an “animal”, the media are happy to repeat the tweet, giving it both more exposure and more credibility. Conversely, we don’t even hear what Assad thinks of Trump.
Any mention of the two men together invariably relates to the Syrian War, and as in all wars, truth is a casualty. The sadly missing news here is that both Trump and Assad have had previous dealings in the UK, before either of them became political leaders. Trump, as we all know, was a businessman, and although most of his deals were in the USA, he also developed a Golf Course in Aberdeenshire. Promises of a truly major development that justified unique, exceptional Planning Permission to build on a Site of Special Scientific Interest were not kept. Many Scots, from neighbours of the new Golf Course to politicians, were left feeling cheated and abused.
So is Assad much, much worse than that? His previous “form” in the UK is that he lived in London with his wife, and worked there as an NHS Eye Surgeon, before his older brother’s death caused his recall to Syria. There seem to be no complaints about his work here, and doubtless many people now have their sight because of it. Given NHS waiting lists, would he not be welcome back? His medical career possibly makes him the only world leader who not only had a different life before politics, but actually did something caring, useful and challenging with it. Is this the mindless animal we hear about in the media?
This is not an appeal to support Assad or the Syrian government. From a truly Christian viewpoint the actions of all governments are merely the machinations of men involved in worldly kingdoms. (What matters is the Kingdom of God, which is within us; which means that we can make a choice to follow God’s way regardless of the dictates or claims of men.) The take-away here is that truth does not fall into our laps from the media; we have to dig for it. And as is made clear by the required oath in British courts, truth is not truth unless it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Apple pie and custard, both the apple pie and the custard, with no poison added. When you eat your sweet course, you are pretty careful about its exact content. It’s vastly more important to be sure of what you are swallowing from the media.
It may be that your response here, given the media conditioning, is “But what about all those Syrian civilians killed by the Syrian government as they fought to push rebels out of Aleppo or East Ghouta?” Indeed. And what about seventy thousand French civilians killed by the Americans as they pushed the Germans out of France after Normandy? This is another example of the media giving only half the truth. Those casualties are part of the reality of war. Perhaps that is, at least partly, why Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. Christians need a love for truth as well as love for enemies; the two are connected, since it is often only lies that lead us to define someone as an enemy.