When world affairs are your business, tragedy is, perforce. No one I know wants to hear that many classrooms of children are being pulverized weekly, or that young girls are being given sedatives as agents of their own government gang-rape them or shove mice into their vaginas. I didn’t do myself any favors with my homecoming by relaying the following story. There once was a 13-year-old boy who was kidnapped by the secret police—back when only the secret police and the army carried guns in Syria—only to have his corpse returned to his parents a month later. They discovered that their child had been used as a human ashtray and an object of target practice and that this was either before or after his penis had been cut off. That wasn’t the worst part, however. The boy’s father was then forced to appear on state television to praise the dictator responsible for his son’s mutilation and blame it all on phantom terrorists. Making a parent complicit in the murder of his progeny has been a hallmark of the sadistic totalitarian since the Old Testament. We never learn.