Some posts write themselves. Others take longer. Untangling difficult thoughts. Trying to persuade them onto the page in an orderly manner. This post is one of the latter.
This is me trying to find sense in the senseless, understand the world we live in and, above all, wanting to change things for the better. So much has happened lately that makes me doubt the good, that horrifies me, that makes me fearful for the kind of world my boys will grow up in.
Your Facebook feed might be full of photos of children. Mine is. The darling kids of friends and family. Photos that make me smile. All cheeky grins, silly poses and evident, abundant love.
On Friday 6th September, my Facebook feed was full of photos of children. They were not children I knew. These children had died. Little bodies washed ashore. The horrific end to a living nightmare. The very real tragedy of war. The very real cost of losing home.
I did not want to see those photographs. Those whole and beautiful little bodies that would never know a first kiss, never marry, never hold their own child, never laugh again. The photographs that brought a far-away thing into sharp focus. One child dying is a tragedy. One thousand dying is a statistic. We were faced with the high relatable one. The singular tragedy.
What struck me was the intense intimacy of those photographs. A feeling of intrusion. I know what it is to have photographs of your dead child. The photographs I have of Xavier after he passed away are not for anyone’s eyes but mine. I have not shared them. It is highly unlikely that I will ever share them. They are so very sad and so very beautiful in equal measure. And they are intensely private.
Little Aylan Kurdi’s image has become inextricably linked with the Syrian war and the plight of its people. His image has been given over to the public. And it has not always been treated with respect. The power of little Aylan is in his heart-breaking humanity. But the constant sharing, the memes, the cartoons (yes, there have been cartoons) all feel like they have slowly eroded that power.
Aylan’s father has said that he hopes the image of his little boy in some way helps other refugees – that it brings attention where it’s needed and reduces the loss of life. A man who has lost his family. His everything. I understand the need to see sense in the senseless, to feel that burying one’s children cannot be in vain.
Aylan’s aunt apparently called for people to stop sharing the photograph. She wanted people to remember him laughing, living and beautiful. I understand that too. When your child has died you have nothing left to protect but their memory. You want to preserve the good.
But whatever my personal feelings about it, photographs of dead children have been shared. Once seen, they cannot be unseen. Once felt, the compulsion to act shouldn’t be left lingering. What can I do?
Within the next few days, the news became closer. We learned of three women who had been killed by men close to them. A different kind of terror. Still losing the sacred safety of home.
Women in our community, failed by those that should protect them. Statistically, my boys and I are more likely to be hurt by someone that knows us, someone we love, than a stranger. How did we get here? What can I do?
The news focusses back to Syria. It seems that little Aylan’s photograph has done little to convince authorities to open their arms. Borders are cut off. Countries no longer want to accept any more refugees. Desperate people are pushed back – but where shall they go? What do barbed wire fences mean when you have nowhere to return to? What can I do?
It is a question that has been beating a tattoo on my heart and mind for weeks now. What can I do? What can one person do?
In terms of the refugee crisis, there are things I can do. The Australian Red Cross provides an excellent list.
In terms of domestic violence, there are things I can do. Whilst US based, this article provides some useful information. You can read about what’s happening in QLD to tackle the issue here: Not Now, Not Ever It’s worth spending a little time on the site and understanding the issues.
I have an obligation to do something, I also have an obligation to my children and the world they will inherit.
I believe I have an over-arching responsibility to raise men who are kind. Who see the value in other human beings. Who respect those around them. Who respect themselves. This article in the Washington Post shares some ideas on how to do that.
Because one person can teach one person. One person can make a difference.
How are you coping with the news?