“What is happening to the children of Syria is sickening…We must not look away.” ~ Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy
We must make the difficult choice to open our eyes to the children of Syria.
We must make the choice to care, to actually give a damn because the reality is, we can change things—but if we keep living as if we can’t, we won’t.
Look around as you’re reading this. Are your own children busy playing in their rooms? Do you hear the giggles and laughter of children playing on the street? Or are they safely asleep in their own bedrooms?
Now imagine, without warning or notice, bombs begin dropping from the sky—chemical bombs. Imagine the smell and gas filling your home and streets, hearing the screams for momma or daddy from children as they began to asphyxiate and foam at the mouth.
This is the reality that many experienced in Syria’s recent chemical attack.
Yet just because you didn’t give birth to these children does not mean that they are not yours.
The reality is that this could happen anywhere in the world and to anyone. No one is truly safe as long as we are allowing hate to have its way. Thousands of children have died in Syria over the course of this devastating war, families have been executed, and life has been decimated—yet still these children exist. Still they are born and nursed by their mothers; still they clutch their father’s hand as they walk around the rubble and debris of their once beautiful home.
Yet in the West, it seems like all it takes to forget about these horrors is a simple channel change, a thumb swipe to take these images out of our view because it’s so much more interesting to watch a funny cat video or to see how the latest sex position can make him orgasm better.
But this swiping is not going to change the world, nor will it take away what is actually happening all around this planet to millions of children who want nothing more than to grow up.
The specifics don’t matter, but what does matter is that we look at them as we would our own children.
Just because an ocean may separate us doesn’t mean that we are in fact separate. Geography, religion, and race are only imaginary dividers from the truth that we are all connected, that we are all part of humanity. It is our job to care for one another the best that we can while we are here.
It’s difficult to wake up and stay woke—but the alternative is to remain blind and ignorant. But we also must not let the violence in the world perpetuate further violence, letting tragedies serve as an excuse to start wars.
Either we are saying that the lives of these children don’t matter or we are saying that they do. Either we are condemning this behavior or we’re condoning it. Some might say, “It’s always been like that there, so what does it really matter that it’s still happening now?”
But the truth is, these families may live on a far and distant shore, but we can still open our hearts to care. Even though we might be safe, there are real children unsure if they will have another day.
As we know, President Trump placed an immigration ban on all of those attempting to enter from Syria while his own child was allowed to stay in New York City just so that he could keep attending his private school. I am not shaming Trump for his choices, but I do have to question where his heart truly is.
The United States was formed by immigration, through those fleeing religious and social persecution and those who just hoped to have a better life. None of us, except Native Americans, are truly from here. We’re all immigrants, so I have to wonder: How it is that it seems we’ve forgotten our roots?
When did we adopt this “us versus them” outlook in which we see ourselves as so far removed from the pain and fear of genocide that we can actually turn a blind eye to the violence and murder that is happening to our world’s most sensitive citizens—its children?
Many of us seem to forget that we are not citizens of the United States, or France, or even Syria—we are citizens of the world. We are truly one, and until we can all see that for ourselves, we will let the darkness in this world separate us.
We will continue to let hate bury love.
These children in Syria deserve to grow up as much as my own children. They deserve clean water, food, and safety. They deserve to simply be children. Just because my own children are born of light skin here in the United States does not make their lives any more valuable than a young Syrian girl’s. It doesn’t mean that mine are capable of more, but only that they will undoubtedly receive more opportunities.
And so I ask, would you be able to close your eyes if that child was in front of you?
Would you be able to walk away from their outstretched hand asking for help?
Would you be able to tell that child that they don’t belong here in the United States?
Would it take seeing this malnourished child in front of you, with scrapes on their knees and tears streaming down their ashen faces, for you to see that they matter?
I understand that we feel powerless, but we aren’t. We have a voice and the louder we become; the more we join with others our voice will strengthen. We can change the situation in Syria by electing political leaders who embody compassion and patriotism, or by supporting charities and organizations that help those affected by this tragedy.
We can also simply share articles like this one, which hope to spread awareness, light, and maybe just a little bit of love.
After all, it is only love that will change the world.
“I won’t stand by and silently watch others suffer. More than half of refugees from Syria are children.” ~ Oxfam America
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Callie Rushton