#41 A child washed-up like seaweed
September 04th, 2015
One little boy dead on a Turkish beach and we are flattened with rage and grief.
I think the last photo to jolt so many people was the one of the little girl, her clothes incinerated off her body, running for her life down an unpaved road in Viet Nam during a napalm attack on a village.
Because there really are miracles, that little girl survived, and now lives in Toronto. The Syrian child which has galvanized so many people this time did not survive, and was found washed up on a beach, like driftwood, or sea weed.
Quite rightly, people are outraged. I am numb, I have lived most of my life cursed by empathy. I see that photo and immediately think of my treasures, saved from that particular horror by an accident of geography, born on this Island and not some other.
And while so many of us mourn that three-year-old, his five-year-old brother, also dead on that beach, has become little more than an afterthought, and untold numbers of others are overlooked and forgotten, as unimportant to us in death as they were in life. If there is a God she must love desperate people. She has made so many of them.
Daily we are shown TV images of children orphaned by disease, living the most marginal of existences, children who are starving, who die parched in lands struck by drought, children perishing because of wars which make no sense. We are urged to send money, to support aid projects, to provide food, clean water, medical care, education.
Some of the TV appeals have moved me to donate, others just make me angry. An obviously overweight white man looks into a camera and pleads with me to send money for starving children and I think, “there’s something wrong here”. He obviously hasn’t missed a meal for a long time and it doesn’t take much research to find out he’s being paid more per year than you or I will see in ten years.
We are told time and again that the world is over-populated, we have been told that so often it doesn’t even resonate with us any more. We mutter that something must be done, but we don’t know what to do so we do next to nothing.
When Nature takes a hand, with epidemics, with drought, with famine, we resist and try to intervene, to find a cure for the disease, to send food, to send medical teams, to drill deep wells, to stop the horror.
And, of course, we commit war, surely the most disgusting atrocity we’ve been able to find and sustain. War after war after war, a war here, a war there, and another over there, somewhere.
With the result a three-year-old is found drowned on a beach and we all recoil. Our kneejerk reaction causes our soft liberal underbellies to clench and cramp.
They are legion, these doomed babies. And our noble leader, surely an honourable man, at least as honourable as was Caesar, tries to soothe us by saying we are doing more than our fair share.
When asked to comment on the photo, our Canadian Prime Minister lied. He said Canada can boast “the most generous” refugee and immigration policies in the world.
Once upon a time that might have been true. Not now. And he knows it. He knows his Conservative government has dragged its heels, deliberately failing to adequately response to incessant pleas from humanitarian groups in Canada to accept more Syrian refugees.
We are not the most generous country when it comes to accepting refugees. The most recent figures I could find place us around 15th.
I guess if you set your standards low enough you can sleep easy at night knowing you aren’t likely to be disappointed.
I’m not advocating we should open the gates and let in all and sundry; many people warn that in the influx there will be those who want to come here to spread their particular brand of insane hatred. Those people may well be correct, and we don’t need to import insane hatred, we can grow our own, right here, and we are.
Dictators in other countries, particularly in those countries where children are sold into slavery to pick the cocoa pods which are so vital in the making of the chocolate we all love, and in those countries where children are stolen and forced to become soldiers in wars the adults wage, do not want us to organize convoys and air lifts to bring the little jiggers out of the mess and foster them here.
Those oppressive nutbars claim we are appropriating their future generations, we are stealing their children, the children who are doomed to starvation and death. Besides, if we bring the kids here there’s no chance for corrupt officials to swipe the relief supplies and the aid money.
One little boy, dead on a beach and we are horrified. Well, let’s stop and recognize that Canadian mining companies, particularly in South America, have ruined watersheds and river systems, doomed entire tribes and cultures to a fast extermination, but we haven’t seen the photos of any of that, so it passes unremarked, and without protest. Canada is now known world-wide as a haven for exploitive mining companies; their head offices are particularly welcome in Quebec. You don’t believe me? There’s an entire book about this phenomenon, first published in French, then re-published in English by Talonbooks of Vancouver.
That little boy is just one of uncounted hundreds of thousands and there is no way we can save all of them. But we could save some of them. And we ought to save more than a mere few of them. On the campaign trail, Prime Minister Harper has promised he will increase the flow of refugees IF his Conservatives are re-elected. He dangles this promise as a way to get more votes when his government has the wherewithal to make it happen NOW.
I haven’t been able to sleep all night just thinking about this.
My best guess is that the Syrian refugees are getting the cold shoulder from Harper because Israel said so. Syria is next to Israel and they’ve been lobbing shells at each other for decades. Bibi Netanyahu is demonstrably bonkers. He would be happy not have one drop of Syrian blood left on the face of the globe.
And so, in response to the photo, so we have Canada being described by our leader as being “the most generous” country on newscasts across the land.
So far it appears there isn’t a journalist or a newspaper in the land willing to correct or even challenge that blatant lie.
What a gawdawful night.
I am not proud to be a Canadian.
Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.
POSTSCRIPT / According to a news bulletin from the organization No One Is Illegal
VANCOUVER – Refugee and migrant rights groups across Canada are demanding that Minister Alexander and Prime Minister Stephen Harper answer for the deaths of Ghalib Kurdi, five, and his three-year-old brother Alan.
Organizers say that Canada urgently needs to welcome refugees. There are almost 60 million displaced people around the globe this year, and over 45,000 people have died crossing borders since 2000. Yet the Canadian government only assisted 5,790 UNHCR refugees in 2013. Instead, the federal government deported 117,531 people between 2006 and 2014, including to countries with official moratoriums on deportation. The majority of those deported are refugee claimants.
In fact, the number of refugee claims in Canada decreased by 50 percent and the number of accepted refugees dropped by 30 percent between 2006 and 2012.
See the latest research at: www.neverhome.ca