It has been less than 18 months since the body of 3 year old Alan Kurdi washed up upon a Turkish shore. The pitiful image is still fresh and raw in the minds of many. We are angry and we are disgusted. But for how long will Alan’s memory endure?
In 1221, the Mongols slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in the two cities of Merv and Nishapur. In 1845, during the Irish potato blight, the British Establishment allowed more than 1 million men, women and children to perish in what was a genocidal policy of marginalization and abandonment.
During World War 2, the U.S. slaughtered up to 200,000 civilians during Operation Meetinghouse when they firebombed Tokyo. They murdered an additional 130,000-250,000 Japanese men, women and children when they dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In Dresden, with the British, they took the lives of between 25,000-70,000 innocent people. (We don’t hear too much about these facts. Hollywood tends not to focus its skills in this area). The Nazis slaughtered 11 million during the Holocaust, including approximately 1 million Jewish children. Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, the Balkans, Sri Lanka, the list goes on and the slaughter has continued up to and including today. The figures are so large as to be incomprehensible.
So why are those with the same callous disregard for innocent life still in authority across the globe? The answer is apathy.
Whether it is a coping mechanism, selfishness, or a combination of both, it is the apathy of the decent majority that permits the continual slaughter of civilians. Individuals and communities wrap themselves in a bubble to separate from social and global realities.
Kim Phuc. Recognize the name? Kim was the 9 yrs. old Vietnamese girl captured in the iconic photograph as she fled her village that had just been fired by the U.S. She ran screaming clothed only in pain, terror and napalm as her skin burned too. Kim survived. Apparently, anger at the actions of the U.S. did not.
Closer to home. Oksana Sukhanova. Remember? Oksana was the 27 yrs. old Ukrainian woman who came to Ireland in search of a better life only to fall through the myriad cracks in our self-centred society. She ended up having both of her feet and parts of her legs amputated due to frostbite. That was 12 years ago and how quickly we forget.
In 2014, The Israeli’s launched a murderous barrage upon the Gaza Strip. Among the civilians murdered were 521 children with a further 3000 suffering from some incredibly horrific injuries.
Yes we can, and I hope we always will, remember Alan Kurdi. But each one of those 521 Palestinian children also had a name. Who’s talking about them now?