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.
16 thoughts on “The Child”
Reblogged this on Vox Populi.
I do not feel the Hebdo cartoon is “twisted or cynical”.
I have come to a totally different assessment of this cartoon. It is the height of thoughtful satire on humankind. It is indeed a poignant satire on the hypocrisy of the West vis a vis the refugees from Syria. It is saying that ” you poured out ‘sympathy’ for this dead little Syrian boy but that phony sympathy dried up for the reality of the Syrian refugees fleeing the hell hole the West has made of their home.” It’s a very subtle but incisive analysis. It is not racist. Not understanding this cartoon’s satiric message and shooting from the hip to call it racist just shows westerners can read but can’t think. It is the truth. They feel sorry for the little dead child but cannot stomach his father, uncles, and other children who are escaping the hell of Syria. Shut the fxyking door!
I think there’s such a thing as trying to do too much with a cartoon. I also think this little boy’s name did not need to be used for this purpose.
Looking at that baby’s hands all I could see was my own daughter’s hands. It is a matter of geography. She was born in a country of privilege and freedom not of war and conflict. Had it been deemed for her to be born there it could be our family seeking refuge. My heart is broken over the loss of the life of this sweet baby and so many others. He was a human being first. One of God’s children, same as my daughter and your granddaughter. I cannot fathom the sadistic mind to create such a cartoon. Thank God that baby is in the arms of Jesus free from all harm now. Our world is not good enough for the beautiful souls that will have to live with these whose hearts have been waxed cold. God help us all in this horrible world we live in.
I don’t know if I can get the HTML coding right, but another famous war photograph from 1937 shows a terrified Chinese baby survivor of Japanese bombing in Shanghai.
As Union General William Tecumseh Sherman said: “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.”
So the next time we hear another of our psychotic politicians salivating at the prospect of more “war” against anyone, anyplace, at any time — just because that will generate the greatest profits for the corporate oligarchy — we should substitute the phrase “cruelty for cash” just to make certain that no one mistakes exactly what our babbling, bungling blowhards mean to do and precisely why they mean to do it.
The little children of this world — in uncounted numbers — will suffer the consequences of our war-profiteering “leaders.”
I think it’s a great article, except for traven’s addendum exonerating Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon (which I consider typically ‘twisted’ and ‘cynical’ – anything but ironic. It is neither ‘subtle’ nor ‘incisive’ but profoundly ‘racist’ in the only real sense of the word, namely, it is not sufficient to be non-racist (anyone asleep can be that); we are required to be anti-racist, and this cartoon (like all the Hebdo output) isn’t that. Maybe traven is the sort who “can’t think”, though the main article suggests he has a heart at least).
In defense of b. traven, there is a distinct possibility that the cartoonist was being poignantly satirical with regard to the hypocrisy of the West. It’s worth the thought, though I do, like wjastore, question the necessity (and tastefulness) of using the child’s name and think the cartoonist could have been more effective in this regard (if, in fact, stated satire was his intention) had he juxtaposed the cartoon with another panel of an American G.I. raping an Iraqui woman or sniper-shooting an Iraqui child. I wouldn’t blame an Iraqui for having a “racist” impression of Americans based on anomalous behavior.
Gentlemen: the name of this blog is The Contrary Perspective. In our own way each of the three founders is a contrarian. At 91 I am the senior “contrarian” of these other two founders and probably virtually all of you other contrarians. I was born a”contrarian.
I am claiming no righteousness for my contraryness but I will defend my position on this Hebdo issue. When this story first broke on the Hebdo cartoon the mainstream thought was universally unquestioned that it was a ” racist” cartoon probably brought on by the cartoonists piggy backing the post Cologne reaction of “furriners of the Moslem inclination” sexually harassing nice white young women. Frankly, like Rhett Butler in Gone ‘With The Wind” “I didn’t give a damn” about the story. But as the drumbeat of conformity from all media across the political spectrum let this interpretation slide by my inherent ‘contrariness’ forced me to see that if everybody else felt this narrative was right something must be wrong about it..
So my first contrary question was “who is benefiting ” from this interpretation. Now to my contrary mind that answer loomed easily on the horizon. Why of course, all of those in power who are starting to use this Cologne assault as the excuse to send back those multitudes of refugees that their policies in Syria and the Middle East have displaced. No big reach. Now I am not going to finish that narrative for you. Hebdo is a legitimate satiric magazine. That’s why they were murdered in the first place. Was this just petty revenge on their part? I question that kind of pettiness on their part from their history of readiness to die for their satire. Now it’s up to you to see if you can make that journey into contrariness that puts you at odd with popular thought.
The folks at Charlie Hebdo undertook a deliberate campaign of anti-Islamic rhetoric. To have depicted the Prophet as they did was a conscious choice on their part, knowing full well the reaction it would provoke. There is a line between criticizing religious fundamentalism, which last I checked was not confined to Islam, and deliberately insulting a specific faith. There is a line between clever satire and hate speech, for want of a better term. They chose to cross it. That is my stance. “traven,” since when are the mainstream media in the practice of “calling racism” at the drop of a hat? Do not most of us posting here consider the MSM to be concentrated under and dominated by a corporate clique that’s among the ruling elite which ultimately benefits from racist divisiveness in society? Perhaps you’re not being contrary ENOUGH here, my friend!!
I’ll say what I said before: there’s only so much freight a cartoon can carry. This cartoon is way too simplistic for the “freight” it is trying to carry.
at the risk of lumbering Gregory with my support (who wants, let alone needs, applause from an imbecile?) I have to say (contrary to all contrary perspectives) I find his response(s) here wise and well-put, unlike b.traven’s, unfortunately (Is his pulling rank supposed to be ‘satirical,’ I wonder). I specially like the suggestion that our esteemed elder may not be contrary ENOUGH and seems to be defending rather than resisting the Islamophobe majority goaded by the media.
Incidentally, I also second wjastore, mjchatters, and Michael Murry’s comments above (sorry, guys)
The world “being rigged to destroy innocence” is not the natural state of the world. This is not to suggest that the environment–Nature’s environment–in which “primitive man” struggled for survival made for an easy existence! It is merely to emphasize that the world of today, where children bear the brunt of so much suffering, DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. (Am I shouting? Well, partially. But when I post here I don’t have access to boldface or italics or underlining, so this is only way I can emphasize words.) The world is in its sorry state because the great majority (the REAL silent majority, I guess we may say) of ostensibly “good people” sit back in their relative comfort of existence and allow control of the world to fall into the hands of megalomaniacal psychopaths called “our leaders.” To what degree must the comfort of this majority be disturbed before they feel a need to act in an effort to change things? This question cannot be answered with a mathematical formula. But I can suggest that the global collapse of the Ecosphere, as a result of human activity, will be a clarion call to awareness. Unfortunately it will be far too late for Humanity at that point.
As for the people behind Charlie Hebdo, I now feel vindicated in my refusal to make any public statement of solidarity with them beyond my general observation at the time of the assault on their offices that I don’t approve of silencing people via bullets. “Ye shall reap what ye sow” may be applicable here.
“The Child” photograph shocks our sensibilities and offends our hearts. Images sometimes have that rare power to reach us in ways that words can never do. You can read of civilian deaths and all manner of atrocity caused by war, yet a single photograph can crystallize the meaning of it all in a second. Cartoons can be similarly striking. They can shock the sensibilities. Certainly the Hebdo cartoon in question has done that, but why? Does it point out something people are uncomfortable with? Perhaps it holds a mirror up to racism & hypocrisy; maybe it is a “depiction” rather than an endorsement or frivolous antagonism. But regardless of the cartoonist’s intent, there is a truth and meaning to b. traven’s analysis, and I, for one, am grateful for all his insights, and especially, for his humantarian moorings.
I do think Hebdo has engaged in frivolous antagonism (they apparently see religion in general as a big problem), but this is a side issue compared to the larger questions at hand. Religious people aren’t the problem and it is deeply wrong to insult anyone for good faith. Bad state actors are the problem. Artificially pitting one religion against another and calling it a “Clash of Civilizations” is truly sickening. It is an affront to our common humanity. And of course war is the biggest problem of them all, creating more problems in its wake.
So the West doesn’t like the mirror to be held up. It might expose truth (literal & symbolic) that would shock the sensibilities. But Middle Eastern people have been having their sensibilities shocked for some time now. (Abu Ghraib anyone? Ever see an image of birth defects caused by depleted uranium?) Maybe we need to shock our own sensibilities to regain them? That is why I satirized the Hebdo style. We need to clear away the distortion that war brings and realize that the vast majority of people have most everything that is important in common, and what might be termed “differences” are more like spice. “The Child” is, as b traven states, “all of us.” Go in peace.
I would contact my representatives but they aren’t representing. We have a political class that looks like it thinks it is more important to sink another trillion into nuclear weapons development than to find ways of cooperation. We have a “defense” that is more into destabilization than stabilization, which would be the best “defense” yet. I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do.
I want to assure everyone reading TCP that I take a back seat to no one when it comes to criticizing the inanities, insanities and irrationalities of religious fundamentalism!! My point regarding Hebdo was/is simply that any reasonably educated person these days understands that Islam forbids pictorial depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. Thus, to do so in today’s highly charged religio-political environment, is deliberate provocation. I realize I am treading dangerously close to saying “They [Hebdo] got what they deserved.” Let’s just say they made a truly foolish choice.
The cartoon is poorly done, but your comment, Greg Herr, is excellent.
I’m much obliged, sir. Thank you.