Editor’s Note: In September 2015, a powerful photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee who washed up dead on a Turkish beach, put a human face on the terrible tragedy of constant warfare in the Middle East. Aylan Kurdi was an innocent; so too was his older brother and mother. They all died fleeing the civil war that has engulfed Syria and surrounding lands.
The photograph helped to galvanize efforts to help war refugees, but the effect was temporary. Already a new narrative was building that many of these refugees were dangerous, perhaps even predators or terrorists. The shift in narrative reached a new level of twisted cynicism in a recent cartoon in Charlie Hebdo that features Aylan Kurdi, all grown up, chasing a German woman in an attempt to assault her sexually.
Whatever the intent of that cartoon, the fact remains that compassion is fleeting, even for society’s most vulnerable, as b. traven writes in the following moving essay.
How peacefully this little toddler sleeps on this foreign beach. His mother must have tired him out playing in the water. I see his little shoes and pudgy hands. He must be his mother and father’s darling. He’s just a little thing and someday this outing will be just a memory.
Holy Jesus, HE’S DEAD! His little body just washed up on this begotten beach. Where is his mother? Will her body wash up also? Why is he here?
I can’t help sobbing every time I see this picture of this innocent soul who is in his final repose. His little body is just like that of my two year old great granddaughter. She is so alive and he is so dead. Why did this happen?
Oh! He is a Syrian Muslim. That’s the reason. Why has he ended up, face down in the sand on this foreign shore? His parents took him away from his home. Why?
Well that’s a long and complicated story but his body lies on this deserted beach as a testimonial to the arrogance of power by many people. Among these people are the governments of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel and their supporter the United States.
But what about our people. Is there any sympathy for what brought this little body to this godforsaken beach? It appears not much. He is just collateral damage and our government has washed its hands of it. Our foreign policy has created a chaotic hell in what was his part of the world and our people are told that we may have tea and sympathy for them but we don’t want any of them in good old America.
I hate that phony sympathy. The harsh reality is that the world is rigged to destroy innocence. The photograph of Aylan Kurdi proves that.
That young, innocent boy is all of us. His death is a painful reminder that the whole world is being manipulated and our lives shattered by the power hungry.
b. traven is co-founder of The Contrary Perspective and a World War II veteran.