Reel Snacks: The White Helmets

Nelson Poon

The White Helmets is an Oscar-winning documentary recently created to shed light on the issues going on in Syria. It follows the work of certain White Helmets as they routinely go out into the streets of Aleppo to save those attacked by bombs.

This film piece is not necessarily full of spoilers because it is a documentary about current events. I will not use this post to discuss the backstory of the events happening in Syria; rather, this post is meant solely as a means to express my opinions on the idea of war and the inhumane acts that occur during war. For those that want to learn more about what is happening in the Middle East, I encourage you to research and find out for yourself the who, what, when, where, and why of this war. I hope that you will gain some knowledge on my perspective on this topic, and understand how important the work of the White Helmets, or the Syria Civil Defence, is in teaching that there is hope in a world consumed by fear and hatred.

One of the White Helmets.

War. This very concept represents so many things in human history: pain, loss, utter destruction. A society ravaged by war is usually a society ravaged by a lack of freedom of ideas and life. Historically, war has usually been used as a means to settle disputes between bickering nations, and due to the technological innovations of our current time, more and more pain can now be inflicted during a conflict. I am lucky to say that I have not been personally affected by the horrors of war, yet, but when I check the news every day, I see so much political tension between the many nations of Earth, and it frightens me because I can start to see our world going awry.

It pains me to read about the high number of civilian casualties that result from this “game” that these warring governments are playing and attempting to win. Normal citizens, just like you and me, may be targeted in a war zone, and this act can deprive so many people of their simple rights and needs of food, safety, and life. People living in these situations are constantly faced with the fear that, at any moment, they could die or be taken away from a loved one.

I have never been a strong proponent of war, and I probably never will be. I believe that there are other methods, besides killing people, that can solve these global political issues. War negatively changes people, and those who come out of war-stricken areas and live through these events will forever have to deal with the excruciatingly painful details that haunt them, such as experiencing PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although I do not know what going through war truly feels like, I can see the pain in the eyes of children that have been caged within the “prison” that warring societies have forced them to deal with. Many of these children will only know and experience war, not happiness, not love, not freedom.

Here enters the White Helmets. Without me delving into the political or social issues plaguing Syria, the White Helmets have helped alleviate some of the pain that Syrian families undergo due to the constant bombings. Everyday, many types of bombs are dropped onto the homes and stores of these Syrian families, and people become trapped under the rubble. The White Helmets are known as the first responders to these attacks, and their main goal is to recover people, dead or alive, so that their families don’t have to feel the agony and pain of questioning whether someone they love has been taken away from them. These saviors have rescued over 70,000 people since 2014 under the destroyed ruins of their once beloved home.

What surprises me the most is that even under tremendous pressure, all the White Helmets have hope for a better tomorrow. They don’t actually have to rescue anyone, and could just allow everyone to deal with their own sufferings, but this group understands that to eventually trump the enemy, they must all come to an equal understanding that everything will hopefully become better. For instance, one very powerful moment comes when the White Helmets rescue a baby that has been trapped under the rubble for what is likely too many hours for a baby to be able to survive. However, once they heard the cries of the young child, they had the hope and strength to fight through the excruciatingly harsh conditions to save another life.This very powerful idea of hope pushes these volunteer rescuers into envisioning an eventual state of peace and freedom.

I think that everyone needs a little bit of hope in their life. Whether that hope is needed because of the anxiety of waiting for college application decisions or for the anticipation of a successful job interview, people need to believe that everything will be okay. Especially in today’s world, people need to have hope that things will eventually turn out for the better. To quote the White Helmets, “We are always optimistic that what’s to come is better. Justice will prevail. Without hope, what good is life?” People must understand that in this cruel world, hope is the one aspect that keeps humanity sane. For people in these war-heavy areas, the hope that everything will go back to normal keeps the White Helmets and regular citizens persevering, until one day, the looming fear of death will end.