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Syria has (or had) about 20 million inhabitants, roughly the same as Florida or New York State.

2.5 million of them are displaced -- homeless -- but still in Syria.

500,000 are refugees, living somehow in drastically overcrowded camps, in other countries.

60,000 have been killed in the fighting.

If the USA were suffering proportionately, then we would have almost a million dead, 7.5 million refugees in Canada and Mexico, and 40 million homeless and on the run.

Remember the trauma of 11 September 2001? We lost only 3000 on that day. Now imagine a war that claims 300 times as many people. That's the scale of what is happening in Syria.

I keep thinking of my favorite Syrian-Israeli, the singer Esther Ofarim. Her family left Syria before she was born and moved just across the border to Safed, Israel (then Palestine). She speaks and sings hauntingly in many languages -- Hebrew, German, French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Afrikaans -- and continues to be hugely popular in both Germany and Israel, and throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Here is one of her very best video recordings: Leonard Cohen's Bird on a Wire, recorded in 1969 in London. She sings from the heart, and I imagine that she is singing for all Syrians who are trying, in their way, to be free:


Like a bird on a wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"

Oh like a bird on a wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

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