Innocence betrayed and the price children pay for our failure
Has humanity lost its collective soul? Did we ever have one to begin with?
I posted the story of this little boy on Facebook a couple of nights ago. His name is Omran Daqneesh. He’s five years old. His home in Aleppo, Syria was bombed — presumably by the Assad regime. Seeing his reaction completely got to me. He’s dazed, his life is all but destroyed, but he’s so much in shock it looks as if he could be patiently sitting in a waiting room to for a regular checkup at the doctor’s office. It was the look on his innocent face, the blood covering a third of it, his drooping eye, two little legs that can’t even bend down to the floor, the matted hair, those beautiful little features that we adults should value and treasure across ANY culture. It all got to me.
We adults. Yes. We adults. We adults cause this shit. We adults cause concentration camps, we cause refugees, we cause genocide, death squads, and mass graves. We cause wars and the famines that often follow wars. We cause hatred and greed and death. And we cause little boys — and little girls — to lose whatever internal sense of innocence and wonder that they have and so desperately need. We often cause this to maintain or expand power. We don’t protect children. We fail them.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa
The news report here pointed out that an estimated 4500 children have died in that city alone. How many more in the rest of Syria? In Iraq? In Libya? In the Congo? In the Holocaust? In our own inner cities? How many children have to die, to suffer, to be victims because adults are too power hungry or filled with hatred for those who don’t look like them or worship the same God? When will we learn that maintaining a sense of humanity is not so much for us but more for those who come after us?
“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
— Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader
When I think of all of this, I go back to my mom and dad and I then realize how fortunate I was to have two parents than not only loved me but who through their actions and their beliefs showed me how much they valued and loved children as a whole. Not just me, their only child. But all children. I like to think that it got ingrained in me. And I’m forever grateful to them for that. I was able to keep an innocence while building an internal strength. I only hope that I’ve done the same for my son. But why is it that so many who say they love children show no sense of that outside of their own front door or their own kind or their own cause? Why can’t we see the harm that we inflict?
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman
I caught shit for posting this story. I caught shit from someone who seemed to think that my posting of this was somehow disrespectful toward our brave servicemen and servicewomen because I didn’t post something about them instead…which I have done plenty of times in the past. I don’t know. My only guess is that since it is highly likely this child is Muslim, and we in the US have fought a war in that region (which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocents) and we have long been dealing with radical fanatics of that faith, that somehow my posting of this was some sort of statement of betrayal. Or a lack of appreciation. I won’t attack her as she has suffered an unspeakable tragedy in her own life, but it was as if fault was found in basic human compassion that, frankly, I think most of us instinctively have when watching such a story. It’s tied into a coarseness that now envelopes our society, our political discourse, our lives. It’s too common.
Matthew 18 2–6
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
I can’t say I expect anything to change. Memes will pop up. A few inspirational videos will come an go. And bombs will rein down and the innocent will die. I’ll go back to living my semi-boring life of planning out the next digital campaign for work, checking out Red Sox box scores, and trying to figure out how to best pay for my son’s college tuition. Omran’s full name will escape my memory at some point. Each day will be like they have been for the past few years — or is perhaps forever? There will be a several dozen Omrans throughout the world who end up suffering as much or will meet a worse fate. That trend will continue for no doubt. We will continue to fail our children.
I just hope that we could use episodes like this to curb our own hatred, to see the value in all, and to realize that our greatest responsibility that we have while we are fortunate enough to grace this earth is not to ourselves but to the innocents around us and to those follow. We owe them no less.
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”
— Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali polymath