"My Own Boy": An American Father on Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian Toddler Who Drowned

When this here blog first started, there was a second writer, Rude Two (clever, right?). Rude Two quickly realized that bloggery is a bitter mistress and (probably wisely) bailed. But here he is, reappearing from the ether, with his view as the father of a toddler boy upon seeing the photos of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian child whose drowned body made its way to the shore of Turkey. He wrote this on Facebook:

"I'm not going to post pictures of the Syrian boy who washed up on the beach because I can't look at them without seeing my own boy. I've seen them, somewhat by accident, and all I can see is my own boy, lying there on the sand, wearing a little red shirt and blue shorts, as though he fell asleep on the edge of the waves.

"Somehow with that image in my head, I've got to compose myself and get back to work because it is customary the world over for human beings to give all of ourselves to our jobs, many of which don't make a difference at all but we do them anyway. The best of us gets pissed away in the paper chase while our kids grow up and our marriages struggle and our talents and hearts and passions sit dormant and stuff like this happens around the world and we just keep on going and our attempts to help are never enough. Every morning it's countless shootings and busted child porn rings and meth lab explosions and rapists, and turning to national news, more saber rattling and fallen celebrities and corporations lying and what the idiot candidate actually said out loud to the idiot crowd who cheered when he said it, and the beat just goes on.

"I don't have any advice or a pithy statement or a dumb image or a link to some web page because right now, I just see that little Syrian boy lying there, at peace by the sea, and I have the certainty that that Syrian boy is in a better place now, and the promise to my own boy to protect him, and the nagging knowledge that I can't protect him forever, but just for now."

Rude Two ended up taking the post down because, as is everyone's way, people went berserker at the phrase "better place," which was meant to be ironic. He explains:

"In the same thread, I've got former colleagues arguing with me as well as a couple Republican (or just less liberal) friends, at least one of which is arguing with my mother-in-law, which is surreal even if I agree with her. Ah, social media! The thread turned into finger pointing and laying blame and fixating on 12 words I threw in about how the kid is in a better place, and how that's just a lie we tell ourselves.

"What strikes me is all of them -- even the atheists -- thought 'better place' meant afterlife, but really what I meant, in a moment where I'd pretty much resigned to despair and kept typing, is that the kid is better off *even if nothing awaits us but a fucking void* -- because sometimes life on this world is a fate worse than death. The kid is better off dead if he doesn't have to put up with this bullshit anymore. The kid is better off at peace regardless of what happens after we die. He's better off because the adults were never going to make it better for him here.

"Also we don't deserve something as great as him. It's our punishment to see those pictures. Just like Sandy Hook was a punishment for everyone. And I'm not saying it's the Judeo-Christian God dropping these punishments a la Old Testament fury, but whatever -- karma, fate, some other religion, some other thing we don't yet know or believe. The universe rights itself. Things fall apart. I've been thinking about Achebe a little.

"I see all the squabbling as a microcosm of the problem. We can't agree on religion (or at least agree to be civil in disagreement) and we can't agree on who's to blame for this -- whether it's the U.S. invasion of Iraq or some vague 'we're all to blame' that lays this at all of our feet while simultaneously laying it at no one's. Neither of those things is a solution. It's just a rhetorical cycle we go through -- a series of lies we tell ourselves until we find the one we want or the mix of ones we want, sort of like a salad bar of bullshit spread out so we can make our own piles and everybody gets it their way."

We must acknowledge our implicit complicity if we look at the images and do nothing. We must admit that we have no problem with it happening. We must accept that we will allow it to happen and that that is just who we all are.