Aleppo, Bodrum, Damascus, death camps, Greece, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hitler, Holocaust, ISIS, Kurds, little boy lies dead on beach, little waves, O magnum mysterium, Ola Gjeilo, persecution, soft white hands, Syria, toddler, Turkey
We all know that, sometimes, it is a single picture or photograph which, finally, brings all the uncertainties into sharpest focus or removes whatever doubts one may have ever entertained about some place or person or event.
When photographs of Hitlerian Nazi Germany’s most inhumane of excesses, the concentration camps, surfaced and were seen by millions all around the world, finally, the horror percolated through the souls of those fortunate enough not to be sharing those outrages on a daily basis.
Finally, one had to face the most diabolical of horrors any man could conjure, or at least to that day and time.
For those least willing, even then, to accept the worst, it was when photos or newsreels of piles of the emaciated bodies of children were published that all mental resistance was overcome.
No longer could one treat horror as just another story in the news.
When I saw this photograph, most genuinely my soul sank.
[A Turkish police officer stands next to the body of a migrant child on the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos (AFP Photo/)]
All the juices and instincts of being a father surged to the fore.
As a Dad, one recognized that what one saw was a truly beautiful, lonely cherub, fallen from Heaven, lying there, totally alone, in as close to a fetal position as one can imagine, yet stone cold dead on a lonely beach… for however many hours or days or weeks distant from what once he knew as ‘home‘.
However humble ‘home’ might have been in the Syria from which the whole family had fled, nonetheless, it was the place where his Mummy and Daddy and others who knew and loved him and took the very best care of him that their circumstances could possibly manage.
When their string of luck had completely run out, or, when they thought it was about to do, this parent or these parents took flight.
If only they could get across the border into neighboring Turkey, perhaps, just perhaps, they might be able to endure whatever containment zone or refugee camp in which they might be placed, but, sooner or later, they also just might be able to find work and, maybe, a new life elsewhere.
Mind you, since the family were Kurds, most assuredly, they were oppressed within the boundaries of ‘Syria’, or as once we knew what that name meant.
The Kurds make up only between 7% and 10% of Syria’s population.
Most live, or more accurately today, lived, past-tense, in the truly ancient cities of Damascus (over 10,000 years old, at least) and Aleppo, older still, and in three, non-contiguous areas around Kobane, the north-western town of Afrin, and the north-eastern city of Qamishli.
Aleppo is essentially rubble, and day by day, ever greater parts of Damascus are becoming the same.
Syria’s Kurds have long been suppressed and denied the most basic of rights.
Nowadays they’re the hyper-prime targets of the Islamic monsters who fly the black flag and slaughter-at-will, and all because Allah is thus ‘pleased’.
Indeed, for these monsters, this is all just like their ‘good old days,’ meaning the barbarity of the 7th Century, all coming back together once again.
Still, no wee footprint is too small to leave an imprint upon the conscience of the world, or, so I earnestly hope.
At the most heart-rending times like these, I tend to look towards both poetry and music. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words offer some solace:
The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls
For me, in his Magnum Mysterium, the young Norwegian-born composer, Ola Gjeilo, offers us as close to the serenity one must at least try to find when one considers the heart-rending sadness of that wee cherub who limply lay before us on that Turkish beach.
[If this fails to play, my apologies. Please click, here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Rp63c81go2U ]
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum.
Ut animalia viderent
Dominum natum, iacentem in
cujus viscera meruerunt portare
I shall never look at any beach, anywhere, quite the same way again, and all because of “the little waves, and their soft white hands” upon the curled-up body of this precious wee boy.