Initially published as a column in NewsKamloops on Friday, September 18, 2015.
It is hard to avoid feeling broken-hearted and also befuddled over many events unfolding lately. From a refugee crisis growing by the day, both in the number of people suffering but also in the controversy surrounding the political and social implications of various countries accepting them, to news of children being killed in Canada, one cannot help but wonder if the world is really turning topsy-turvy this time.
Humanity is slowly (or not) being buried under its own indignities, some so gross and unforgivable we find it hard to make peace with it, now or ever.
The photo of the little Syrian boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey circled the world many times over, prompting people to step up and demand governments to act to address the awful refugee crisis.
Many wondered about that photo, asking how and why it impacted so many people while other photos of children dying or dead from Syria, Africa or Ukraine, or even here in Canada, have done little but show up on the news and cause a temporary shudder.
The thing is, the photo made people aware of a situation so dire it is baffling it took so long for us all to react the way we did after seeing the lifeless body of a child washed up on a beach.
The EU and the rest of the world are still far from having found viable solutions to lessen the severity of one of the most massive human displacements in history, yet the matter is being discussed and analyzed at length, powered at least partially by the photo.
A little boy lost his life, and that is beyond sad, yet his death and the fact that the world saw it have become the catalyst that will help prevent other children like him from dying needlessly.
Here at home, recent incidents involving very young children should become strong catalysts of change too. In Penticton, a 5-year-old boy was killed by a pickup truck while crossing a busy street (on a crosswalk) with his father and older brother. Not only was he hit by the truck, but the driver kept on driving not realizing what had happened, until he was flagged down by people, and after not hearing the boy’s father yelling at him to stop.
What are we to learn? That some of the trucks on our streets are so big you cannot see a smaller size adult from the driver’s seat, let alone a child? Do we need them so big that they become a menace for pedestrians?
Before we even know what caused the accident (will we ever?) how determined are we to make driving distractions a thing of the past, be them phone or alcohol-caused, how harsh the punishment for both and speeding too, so that we can prevent other people from dying needlessly?
The case of the little girl in Alberta who died an atrocious death at the hands of a monster who first killed her father, is as shocking as it is incomprehensible. As a parent, it is hard not to crumble inside just thinking of the fear and pain that child had to go through before she died.
Will we hold ourselves accountable as a society to do right by her and her father (if a shocking photo is not to be shown) and ensure cold-blooded killers like theirs do not ever get to hurt anyone else ever again? Or will we forget too soon because such shocking things are hard to bring up? Let’s hope not.
We should hug our children once more every night, find more compassion for each other and strengthen the bonds with the people in the community we live in so that we can do all that we can to prevent any other children or adults from being killed in our midst.
Another toddler, just a couple of months younger, was found in Victoria by the RCMP officers that responded to a 911 call. She could not be resuscitated. While the police informed the public that ‘this is an isolated incident and the public is not at risk’, the reality is that we are at risk, very much so, simply because we’re in it together. It’d be shameful if we chose to think otherwise.
We do not know the nature of the injuries that caused the toddler’s death, nor do we know the nature of her mother’s medical distress. We can assume that it was perhaps a case of post-partum depression or psychosis, which is a reality for approximately 8 to 12 per cent of new mothers and should prompt our local and provincial governments to allocate proper resources and funds to help prevent and treat such disorders, as well as other mental disorders that plague our society.
Will the media be diligent enough to inform us later so by knowing the truth we can press for necessary change?
There are then the many cases of children in foster care, some of whom die at the hands of their caregivers (see the case of the 2-year-old girl who, two years ago, was found to have fractures and bruises by the coroner, yet the cause of death was declared unknown), never to be heard of again, their death not able to stand out as a horrible enough event that prompts us to better our ways so that no other children have to die or suffer while in foster care.
Should we fear that if we do not have a visual reminder strong enough to shake us to the core we will just cringe and move on? Using photos of children under such dire circumstances may just look callous and inconsiderate, yet considering the above cases, all of them, and seeing how a photo was enough to make the world wake up and demand action, what should we do about the children who are dying only to be seen and remembered by their loved ones, their sad passing unable to create strong enough ripples to influence obligatory change?
No child is more or less important than another and in failing to prevent the (preventable) death of any, we are not only failing humanity, we are failing ourselves and the values we hold dear at a personal level.
We can argue about the correctness of publishing photos of dead children until we’re blue in the face, truth is there is a high risk of more children dying of various preventable deaths unless we’re shaken good by a photo so hard to look at that it will never leave us.
Unless, of course, we are reminded of the preciousness of life simply by looking in a child’s eyes and realizing that all it takes is kindness and a made up mind to make good things happen. For them and for us all.