You have my attention now. We have never met, or spoken, but I owe you an apology. My silence has contributed to your plight, and for that, I am so deeply sorry.
I start most days by reading the latest in world affairs. For the last five years, on a daily basis, I have read about the never-ending civil war destroying your country. It’s not that I was unaware of your plight, I was indifferent to it. I read the headlines – every, single, day – and I remained silent.
“Intensifying fight for Aleppo chokes civilian population.”
“Suspected gas attack on Aleppo causes deaths, injuries.”
“Syrian hospital bombing death total rises to 13.”
With each passing headline, the world’s collective indifference reaches new levels. For me, that indifference ended this morning, when I woke up to the headline: “Harrowing video shows dazed, bloodied boy pulled from Aleppo rubble”. I clicked the video and saw you clenching your little fingers around the shoulder of the man who pulled you from the rubble. He sat you down inside a nearby ambulance and rushed back to salvage more lives.
It was in this moment that I met you, Omran Daqneesh, the 5-year-old boy from Aleppo. Your face was covered in ash and blood. Your thousand-yard gaze was fixed, forever searing my soul.
You are too young to fully understand what happened to you. G-d willing you will grow to see old age and gray hairs. As you grow older there will be people in your life who try to explain to you who was responsible for this terrifying moment in your life. Some will say it’s Americans. Some may say it was the Russians, or, the Assad regime. You will hear the words Da’esh and Hezbollah, and some will point to Iran or Israel. While there may be an element of truth to some, if not all of the above, the cause is far more simplistic than the colliding interests of the parties involved.
The answer to who is responsible for your pain lies in the indifference of myself and hundreds of millions of people just like me all across the world. The people who have a voice, and refuse to use it.
Omran, a famous writer, Elie Weisel, who suffered horrors similar to the ones you are now experiencing, once wrote: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
While at the end of the day it is mankind that is responsible for your pain, it was our indifference that enabled it, emboldened it, and allowed it to destroy your country.
Omran, I hope you will accept my apology. You have my attention now.
New York, NY