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What The Little Boy On The Beach Means To Me

12/09/2015 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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In this Monday Sept. 7, 2015 photo, two Palestinian boys play by a sand sculpture paying tribute to three year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, whose haunting image hammered home the Syrian migrant crisis to the world. He died along with 5-year-old brother and their mother when their small rubber boat capsized as it headed for Greece. (AP Photo)

When I saw the picture of the three-year-old lying on the beach, my heart froze. I have a three-year-old and like all parents who saw that picture, I saw my daughter face down on that beach. It's not possible to think normal, happy thoughts when you see a child who was drowned and washed ashore, trying to escape the tormentors in his country to a better life. What an amazing life the rest of the world gave him! His prospects of a better life were cut off the moment he got on that boat that promised him a future. Wearing his shorts, socks and shoes before departing on his deadly journey, little did this boy know of the terrible future that awaited him.

Think of that morning, what his parents thought and what he was going through as he probably saw a flurry of activity before they all left their home. My daughter usually sits amazed in a corner, watching her iPad or watching her parents as we do last minute things to leave before a family vacation. Was this kid watching TV? Or was he just getting in his parents way, like my daughter sometimes does. Or was he just asleep until it was almost time to go?

I avoided seeing that picture for many days because I knew it would haunt me for a long time. Finally last weekend, right before putting my daughter to sleep, I read Peter Bouckaert's thoughts on why he thought necessary to share such a horrific photo. Obviously the timing was awful because the moment I lay next to my daughter, I started to quietly bawl.

I bawled over that little boy and the future he would never see. I bawled over our insensitivities and, frankly, what a shitty place we have turned this earth into. I cried holding my daughter because all I could see was her on that beach with her sneakers and shorts, lying face down never to run around again and ask questions that, right now, seem maddening. I cried because at that moment, everything seemed hopeless and we humans seemed nothing but monsters.

This little boy was trying to cross an ocean to save himself from the constant bombs that were dropping on his city. He wanted to live in a safe place where he could have food to eat, make friends, go to school, meet someone, have children and grandchildren and die old. We deprived him of all of that. Our inactions and inability to stand up against the wrong that is still being committed, is responsible for his death and the death of those countless children whose pictures will never make it to the front page and jar our souls out of our bodies.

I waited a long time to write this, primarily because I was afraid of what my emotions would bring. Even as I write this, tears wet my eyes for this little boy who died because we are too comfortable in our surroundings and cannot be bothered to fight the good fight. It is, no doubt, a sin to kill people but those who stand by and watch such ghastly acts are transgressors as well. So while we struggle to find our humanity and continue to be nonchalant, I can only hope this little boy found his peace away from our world that wronged him every chance it got.

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