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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Hail Caesar

by John Brummett | September 14, 2022 at 3:30 a.m.


He's a man of governmental prominence who will go unnamed here because we were having a personal conversation that he couldn't have imagined I would ever see a need or reason to quote.

I confront that reason now because I want to introduce the subject of a globally important photographic exhibit coming to Little Rock next week.

Actually, what the fellow related was that he had been talking to a colleague earlier in the day and that the colleague had been the one to observe that, because Ukrainians "look like we do," Americans were caring more visibly and intensely about them than other longer-term victims of war atrocities.

Indeed, we identify as a culture and society more with Europe than the Mideast. We identify easily and empathetically with a telegenic, charismatic, communicatively expert president not long removed from a popular Ukrainian television show. We identify not so naturally with people brutalized, killed or forced to become refugees by the Assad regime in Syria as assisted by the same kinds of Russian aggressors guilty of the more recent actions that horrify us in Ukraine.

It is uncomfortable pitting degrees of American caring based on race and geography. So, I'll stop that now and turn to a rare corrective opportunity.

I'll use today's space to tout a potentially valuable free and open-to-the-public educational and sensitizing exhibit coming to Little Rock next week, Wednesday the 21st through Friday the 23rd.

This is a traveling photographic exhibit called the Caesar Exhibit. It includes 30 of not the most graphic of more than 55,000 smuggled photographs that a defecting Syrian military photographer code-named "Caesar" took of mass killings and acts of brutality against Syrian citizens. The horrors were inflicted by the Russia-assisted Assad regime during the ongoing 11-year war against an American-aided Syrian resistance.

The exhibit will spend those three days here next week for viewings from noon to 4 p.m. at the Windgate Center of Art and Design of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, located at 5660 West 28th St. It's being presented by a partnership of UALR and the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a U.S. nonprofit founded in 2011 that aims to end the atrocities in Syria through humanitarian initiatives and pursuits of justice for war crimes against the Assad regime and its allies.

Over a half-million Syrians have been killed and 11 million have fled their homes. It's an atrocity that ought to bring together at least in part those of liberal-minded compassion and those who are hawks against Assad.

On next Friday night, the 23rd, from 5 to 6 p.m. as the exhibit closes, a registration-required panel discussion will be held at the Windgate Center. Among other things, it will offer liberal-minded persons of a Democratic persuasion an opportunity for a sliver of common ground with their Republican congressman, French Hill.

Hill will participate on the panel with Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the task force, and Omar Alshogre, a Syrian human rights activist and one-time political detainee.

Hill's bona fides for the panel are his support for the relatively new U.S. law authorizing sanctions against groups assisting Assad and his allies, his outspokenness against the atrocities of the Assad regime and his support and sponsorship of bipartisan bills, resolutions and amendments condemning that regime.

Hill also is a member of the Free Syria Caucus in Congress as well as one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on American Hostages and Americans Wrongfully Detained Abroad, some of whom are in Syria.

So, consider for your and our sakes the opportunity next week to see distant images you'd likely not otherwise see, as well as to consider those images in something as rare as a partisan-transcendent modern American political context.

These are the best kinds of things nonprofit advocacy groups and institutions of higher education can do for us.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



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