7 real things you can do right now about the catastrophe in Aleppo.

Syrian government troops are attempting to capture the remaining sections of Aleppo, and its citizens are in grave danger.  

Aleppo Residents flee rebel-held areas of the city. Photo by Karam Al-Masri/Getty Images.

The humanitarian disaster, which has been ongoing for months, has gotten far worse in the past few days, with terrified residents, caught between government forces, Russian airstrikes, and rebel forces tweeting desperate pleas for help and final messages to loved ones. Reports of women committing suicide to avoid being raped and civilians being executed by regime forces have begun to filter out of the city.


Meanwhile, the once-thriving region has been reduced to rubble and chaos over the course of the past several months. Russia has announced an end to the military operation, claiming victory, and reports of a cease-fire between government and rebel forces have been issued, but both have yet to be confirmed by the United Nations at the time of this writing. 50,000 civilians are still believed to be in the eastern part of the city.

It's easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed and want to turn away from a story like this. The news is bleak — and likely to get bleaker. But those of us with the good fortune to live in safety have a responsibility to do what we can to help. And there are ways to help.

Most involve donating to organizations that are on the ground in or around Aleppo. We know not everyone has money to spare, but if you can make it work, providing much needed funds to these organizations is the most efficient way to assist at a crucial moment like this.

1. Support the White Helmets.

The White Helmets respond to the aftermath of an airstrike. Photo by Mohamed Al-Bakour/Getty Images.

Led by Raed Al-Saleh, this homegrown search-and-rescue force, which operates in rebel-controlled Syria, including Aleppo, has saved tens of thousands of their countrymen over the course of the conflict — pulling bombing victims out of rubble, raising money for prosthetics, and supporting the families of fallen comrades.

Some critics of the organization argue that the group hides a political mission, which advocates for regime change and policies that have exacerbated the violence. But right now, they're saving lives, and in a crisis moment, that matters more.

You can donate on their website.

2. Support Doctors Without Borders.

The aftermath of the destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in Syria. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/Getty Images.

The global, nonpartisan medical relief organization is still active on the ground across the country, providing local medical facilities, which have been decimated by the war, with equipment, supplies, and, where possible, personnel.

You can give them money here.

3. Support the Syrian American Medical Society.

Medical professionals protest near the United Nations. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The group runs dozens of medical operations in Syria and the countries that have taken in the largest share of refugees from the war, treating nearly 3 million Syrians in 2015.

You can sign up to volunteer or donate here.

4. Support the International Rescue Committee.

The IRC supports people who flee war and conflict in countries around the world, including Syrian refugees.

Here's how to support them in turn.

5. Support Save the Children.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images.

Save the Children works with internally displaced and refugee children and families affected by the conflict.

You can read more about what they're doing and pledge support here.

6. Go to a protest, or start one.

Londoners and residents of Istanbul are taking to the streets to demand action from local officials on the growing crisis.

If you live in those cities, join them to demand action from local officials. Or organize a protest effort where you are.

7. Support refugees.

Aleppo residents flee the rebel-held section of town. hoto by Karam Al-Masri/Getty Images.

There are millions of them all over the world. The terrorization and dismemberment of Aleppo? This is what they're fleeing. This exactly.

Since refugees from the conflict started flooding into the West in 2011, their fate has become a political football, exploited by candidates and causes in countries across Europe and North America to stoke fear and win elections. This should stop. The most compassionate thing we can do is to put aside our fears of terror and the unfamiliar and give them a chance to rebuild their lives among us. And to give those who still suffer on the ground hope that there's a better life available to them, should they manage to escape.

You can donate to the UN Refugee Agency. Or Questscope, which provides education and counseling resources to refugees living in Jordan. Or the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which helps shepherd refugees making the perilous sea-crossing into Europe to safety.

More importantly, you can call your senator or congressperson and tell them that you won't support them if they don't support expanding the U.S.'s Refugee Admissions program to admit more than the woefully inadequate 10,000 Syrians we resettled in 2016.

What's happening in Aleppo isn't just a humanitarian tragedy, it's a moral crisis. It's a time to put aside our fears and apathy, to get real, and to act as best and as effectively as each of us can.

If we don't, we'll never stop asking ourselves why we didn't.

More

If you wonder why the LGBTQ community holds Pride parades, look no further than Grayson Fritts.

If you don't know who Grayson Fritts is, here's a brief intro:

He's a pastor. He's a police officer. And he is on video screaming from the pulpit that the government should kill gay people.

That's not an exaggeration.

In a video of a fist-pounding sermon at All Scripture Baptist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, Fritts said that police should round up people at Pride parades, put them through a quick trial, and then put them to death.

"The Bible says the powers that be are ordained of God," he said, "and God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to these LGBT FREAKS and arrest them. Have a trial for them, and if they are convicted then they are to be put to death…do you understand that? It's a capital crime to be carried out by our government. Not Christians...unless you're a policeman. Know what I mean? If you're a policeman it should be your responsibility to carry these things out."

Just FYI, this man was named "Detective of the Month" in 2017. Let that sink in for a hot second.

"Pride parades?" he continued. "Hey, call the riot teams. We got a bunch of 'em, Get the patty wagon out here, we got a bunch of 'em going to jail, we got a bunch of them that we're gonna get convicted because they've got their pride junk on and they're professing what they are, that they're a filthy animal. After this onslaught, where the government's arresting them and carrying out God's laws and they're all dead…"

And that's only part of it. You can watch five minutes of the sermon here, though I don't actually recommend it.


P.S. The church's website states that the church is "a family integrated church, meaning children of all ages are welcome in our services." So presumably, this extremist, violent hate speech was being delivered to children as well as adults. Lovely.

Grayson Fritts and his church planned a meeting for June 29 at a Cracker Barrel in Cleveland, Tennessee. The restaurant said, "Nope."

The church website lists a "Small Town Soul Winning" event for June 29 in Cleveland, Tennessee, about 80 miles southwest of Knoxville. Presumably, that's why Fritts and members of his church were planning an event at the local Cracker Barrel in town.

But according to Knox News, Cracker Barrel has turned away Fritts and his gang, citing the chain's zero-tolerance policy for "discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort."

Cracker Barrel said it told the church it couldn't hold its event at their restaurant. "We disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness," the restaurant chain said in a statement. "We serve everyone who walks through our doors with genuine hospitality, not hate, and require all guests to do the same."

For the folks who would say, "But isn't that just Cracker Barrel discriminating against Fritts for his religious beliefs?" No. If the restaurant had said he and his fellow "Christians" couldn't eat there because they were Christian, that would be religious discrimination. It is Fritts' discrimination, hate speech, and advocating of violence that violates the company's policy of service, not his stated religious affiliation.

Businesses have the right to refuse service to customers that pose a threat other customers. No doubt, LGBTQ people eat at Cracker Barrel. Would you feel safe in an enclosed space with a presumably armed man who believes—and tries to convince others—that you should be put to death?

In a capitalist society that values free speech, businesses taking a stand can be a powerful statement.

We can debate all day long about whether hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment, but as of now, it is. One could make the argument that Fritts was inciting violence with his speech—which would make such speech not protected—but the fact that he was advocating for the government to do the violence and not for citizens to take it upon themselves may legally shield him from that argument.

I know that seems weird, but such are the realities of free speech.

However, the First Amendment only protects us from the government squashing our freedom of expression. It does not mean that a business or private entity can't decide that someone's speech is too heinous to allow in their space. Speech is not protected from other people calling you out on what you say. It's not protected from businesses or institutions deciding you're too much of an a-hole to do business with.

No one needs to be tolerant of dehumanization. No one needs to be tolerant of someone calling for innocent people's deaths because of who they are attracted to. No one should stand for that, ever.

Good for Cracker Barrel for making it clear that there is no place for such hatred at their tables.

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