This image has hit me like a ton of bricks this week, and I can’t shake it.
I’m not big on praying, but this has brought me to the point of wanting to pray, to pray for an end to stories like this.
This is 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh. Omran and his family live in Aleppo, Syria, one of the most war-torn places on the planet. Yesterday, a government airstrike hit his home in a part of the city controlled by rebels. Omran and his family were buried in the rubble. Fortunately, they all survived, with minor injuries.
Omran was pulled from the rubble, and carried to the back of an ambulance. In the midst of so much noise, he was silent, most likely suffering from shock. He had a cut on his head, and the blood was running down his face. As he sat, he reached up and wiped at his face. Seeing blood on his hand, he tried to wipe it on the seat.
Omran reminds me of my son, Julian, who will soon be four and looks a lot like Omran. Julian, fortunately, lives in middle class Tulsa Oklahoma. The chances that his home will be hit with an airstrike any time soon are nil. There will likely never be a picture like this taken of my son.
But they are so alike. All that separates them is half a world. I imagine if they met, they would likely get along. Omran appears to have some cartoon character on his shirt, and Julian would surely know who it is and they would have lots to talk about. Omran probably likes soccer, and so does Julian, so that is another commonality.
But, while Julian’s life has been serene and safe, Omran has spent all of his five short years living in terror, even if he didn’t know it, of this exact thing happening. Omran’s life expectancy is so much shorter than Julian’s because he lives in Aleppo. And, Omran’s chances of escaping the terror he lives with are small to none, because much of the western world that can help has decided Syrian victims like Omran who become refugees are much too dangerous to give a safe home to.
In my own country, for instance, one of our major presidential candidates has gone so far as to say that Omran, if he were to come here, would immediately be suspect of being a perpetrator of terror, and would need to be detained and then sent back to Aleppo, to the bombs and planes and terrors he was fleeing.
And, all the while, Julian will play and grow and not know fear or need or terror. Julian will almost certainly grow into a well-adjusted, carefree man. Omran’s chances of that are minuscule. Because the world has decided there is nothing to be done for him. He is collateral damage. The leader of his country will continue to target him and his family for violence, and the rebel’s supposedly fighting for his freedom will continue to use him as a human shield.
And meanwhile, the world will stand by, because 13 years ago, we were all incredibly short-sighted and selfish and irresponsible and decided to enter into a war in a country neighboring Syria that we did not need to enter into. And because that war was such a debacle, violence and terror was spawned across the entire region, and the ability of the world to intervene and act in a credible way in that part of the world was hampered and hindered for decades to come. And so Omran becomes another casualty of the mistake that was the Iraq War, and more importantly, of our Western hubris.
And so all of this brings me back to looking at that picture, and having a question pop into my mind:
What is so damn important that Omran has to suffer?
What have we all decided, in our collective insanity, is so much more important than this little boy’s life and happiness and safety? More important than his ability to just be a 5 year old little boy who likes cartoons and soccer?
When and why did we all decide that Julian, as much as I love and cherish him, has more worth than Omran?
What are we all fighting for that has more worth than Omran?
Please enlighten me. Because I can’t think of a damn thing.