I see you sitting there, at an age where your biggest woe should be whether your little toy car would beat your friend’s in an artificial race, your tiny legs barely extending beyond the ambulance seat, and you break every piece of my heart in doing so. There’s nothing more I want to see you do than sit in a swing set, using those small legs to kick the ground with all the strength you could muster to go as high as you possibly could.
With your eyes transfixed on a childhood that has been long-stolen from you, you’ve reminded the world that the war that’s becoming synonymous with your upbringing involves people too, that those numbers they see ticking up in their news feeds are not mere figures, but people who are someone’s entire world.
In that moment when you were shell-shocked at everything you’ve lost, you also shocked the world. There has been no stronger emotion. But emotions are fleeting, and they rarely cause change. You and Aylan Kurdi will become symbols, and once they move away from you, once you stop bringing them the hits, you will only remain engrained in the memory of those who care beyond the span of a news cycle.
I’m sorry you grew up Arab. I’m sorry you grew up in a region that has only known conflict, that your childhood is that of war, like the childhoods of all of your people, where you are nothing more than a number, where your tragedy and worth are only as important as the viral picture that emanates from them.
I’m sorry you grew up knowing nothing more than fragility of a status quo, where one moment everything you know is the completeness of your family, and the next everything that you know is buried in rubble, and you’re in the back of an ambulance with the only common denominator is you being alive.
I’m sorry that many only see you as a potential threat, unaware that the horrors you’re going through will leave a scar lasting beyond the attention they bestow upon you, as they go back to the confines of their safe bubble, pointing fingers at your kind, while their children are safe and sound, and will hopefully always be as such, never knowing the meaning of what it is to be in your shoes that are buried under the rubble of everything that you once knew was home.
I’m sorry you have nowhere to go. I’m sorry the places where you’d be safe are places whose people don’t want you, afraid of you talking to their children, going to their schools, breathing their air, drinking their water. I’m sorry that you’re damned if you stay, and damned if you leave. I’m sorry you live in a world where justice is as fictive as books about magic, witches and wizards.
I’m sorry that to them you’re nothing more than a meaningless pawn in their chess game.
Because there are no words in any language that can portray the heartbreak that you’ve witnessed, as a picture of you in sheer shock makes headlines, only to get people like me shaken for a minute or two before they go about their normal daily life, and you go back to yours where you might have a second or third of fourth or thirteenth photo-op but no one to see your shell-shocked face.
Because we have failed you. As a human being, I have failed you. As human species, we have all failed you. As countries around the world, we’ve failed you.
Because you’re not supposed to be sitting in the back of an ambulance, blood streaking down one side of your face, covered in dust, not aware that in that moment you were forever changed, instead of playing with little toy guns with your siblings, in a playground somewhere, like kids your age should be doing.
Because you’re not supposed to be going viral for being traumatized and because your trauma is not supposed to be a discussion topic for us today.
Because I couldn’t hold back my tears when I saw your face while you never did.You’re precious, beautiful, important, loved and this is for you.