Sep 04 2015
Over the past day or two, I’ve had the (mis)fortune of having Aylan Kurdi’s photo assault my senses without warning in my Facebook feed. I suspect this photo will go down in history alongside that of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and countless other photos documenting the extremely tragic consequences of being caught in the crossfire of war and unnecessary violence.
I also had the (mis)fortune (several days ago) of seeing Alison Parker and Adam Ward gunned down by Bryce Williams/Vester Flanagan, both from Ward’s perspective, and Flanagan’s perspective.
And, then, of course, there are people shooting up churches, movie theaters, schools, etc.
And, as usual, there is outrage. There is anger. There is righteous indignation.
After that, there is outrage that there isn’t enough outrage. There is anger that there isn’t enough anger. There is righteous indignation that there isn’t enough righteous indignation.
Then there is the inevitable “While you were distracted by this Thing, This Other Thing was happening!” type hectoring, about how we’re all “sheeple” and puppets of the media/government/etc. and we should be ashamed, but oh wait, here’s the Next Thing to be outraged, angered and indignant about.
There are also occasional forays into “You’re outraged for the wrong reasons and I’m outraged at you!”
(to note: Kim Davis denying marriage licenses in Kentucky for “religious” reasons, but pointing out her hypocrisy based on multiple divorces and children born out of wedlock, is now being called “slut shaming” and nobody’s allowed to point out the very obvious fact that she looks kinda like Annie Wilkes in Misery).
Aren’t we all pissed off about someone shooting a lion, too? Or are we done with that now?
Let’s talk about dead people.
While not directed at me in particular (thankfully, or I would be forced to cut a bitch), it seems that I’m now seeing the outrage-that-there-isn’t-enough-outrage phase of the reactions to the photo of Aylan Kurdi’s body on the beach. People are getting cranky that others aren’t publicly displaying their outrage in sufficient quantities.
So, let me offer my reasons for NOT going on about this particular tragedy in great length on social media (and by “great length” I mean “at all”). Because, you know, my silence on the subject obviously means I’m either apathetic or a monster of some sort.
- Aylan Kurdi is the same age as my son.
- Aylan Kurdi’s position on the beach is in many ways similar to a position in which my son likes to sleep.
- My son was born prematurely, 6 weeks after we found out about him even existing.
- My wife and my son almost died a few days before he was born.
- My wife’s blood pressure reached Scanners – type levels, that everyone we’ve told the numbers to, is in awe that she didn’t stroke out.
- As a result, my son was born via emergency C-Section, after an entire night of all of us staying awake, trying to keep my wife and son alive.
- My son was not breathing when he was taken out. They had to intubate him immediately.
- My wife almost died again in the recovery room, and had to be taken to the ICU.
- My son then spent the next 11 weeks in the NICU. During this time:
- He developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis.
- One of the other infants in the NICU died from this.
- My son was also diagnosed with Tracheomalacia.
- My son had frequent Apnea Bradycardia episodes.
- Because of these things, he coded a number of times, including once while sleeping on me, and once while feeding from his mother.
- My infant son had more wires and tubes sticking out of him than the humans in The Matrix.
- My wife (bless her) spent every single day, all day, in the NICU with our son.
- I could only spend the weekends, due to being 120 miles south and starting a new job. This tore me apart inside, and still does.
- As if all this wasn’t enough, the time you spend in the NICU is not private. You’re surrounded by other premature infants with their own host of medical issues, their parents, their doctors, and the assorted alarms going off around you. Constantly.
- We all survived this (yay!), but then shortly after we got home, the three of us got the flu, and this happened:
- My 3 month son coughed up some phlegm and aspirated on it.
- I picked him up, and he was cold, and his body had as much rigidity as a dead salmon you’d pick up at the fish market.
- We called 911, and during the longest 10 minutes of my life, I was able to half-resucitate him, and keep him alive long enough for the paramedics to show up.
- I got to ride in an ambulance with my 3 month old son fighting for his life in the back for the second longest 10 minutes of my life.
- We spent all night at the local hospital that told us they didn’t want him there because they weren’t comfortable with the idea.
- Our ER nurse kept disappearing, and I had to keep my son breathing for hours, by manually stimulating him.
- When they finally moved him to a different room in the ER, he started to code again. This brought about a flood of doctors attempting to perform CPR, injecting him with Ketamine (for reasons I still don’t understand), and unsuccessfully trying to intubate him for far longer than necessary.
- All of this while waiting for us to get transferred back to the NICU where we’d started (120 miles north). And then finding out that the helicopter had to turn back because of bad weather.
- I then got to ride in an ambulance for 120 miles in back, with my son, stabilized, but in a metal canister, and beyond my ability to touch. All I could do was watch him through a small window.
- Then 10 more days of the NICU.
So, then. We all survived, because, you know, #WhitePrivilege or something. And this now brings us to Aylan Kurdi, washed up on the beach.
If you re-read #3-11 above, I think -I hope- you would understand that I have PTSD from all of this. Now, if you tie that back to #1 and #2, above, you’ll understand why I don’t have a whole lot to say about Aylan Kurdi. But in case you don’t, let me elaborate:
It isn’t that I don’t feel Abdullah Kurdi’s loss. The problem is, I do. Seeing Aylan. Seeing Aylan on the beach. Seeing how big (little) he is, and the position he’s in, brings #3-11 screaming back to me. In my mind, in my body, in my veins. I want to throw up. I want to scream. Abullah has said “I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”
And the problem is, I get that. I know that. I know because I came close to that too many times.
So, why am I not joining in the outrage on social media?
Because, ultimately, it doesn’t do anything.
It doesn’t save lives. It doesn’t change the world (unless you count some of the lynch mobs launched from Twitter), and, frankly, to me, it often straddles the line into masturbatory exercises about tragedy porn.
“But it raises awareness!”
Great! I’m aware!
Now what? Do we all pat ourselves on the back for being “aware” now? I’m aware. You’re aware. Now we don’t have to do anything else. We’re aware. All we need to do now is make sure everyone else is aware, too. And if they’re not contributing to the Chorus of Being Aware (via “liking and sharing”) then THEY ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
I am aware that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are killed and/or imprisoned by the police. I’m aware of this. For the record, I think this sucks.
I am aware that some white kid shot up an African-American church. I’m aware of this. For the record, I think this sucks.
I am aware that the frankly ludicrous solution to this was for everyone to run around demanding Confederate flags be taken down, because this would instantly solve racism, or something. More likely, it’s just going to piss people off. Also, I find the logic of “you lost the war, why are you flying it?!” to be a dangerous road to take. I look forward to the eradication of the Palestinan flag by the Left based on the same grounds. Yeah, I didn’t think so (and, for the record, I fully support Palestinan statehood).
I am aware that #BlackLivesMatter. I believe they do.
I am also aware that #AllLivesMatter. I also believe they do. That includes your life. My life. My wife’s life. My son’s life. Aylan Kurdi’s life. The lives of those killed in the Charleston church shooting. The people killed by Anders Breivik. Everyone’s life. Yet this is frowned upon as being somehow “racist.” (Personally, I think that by believing that #AllLivesMatter, it means I’ve got your back, regardless, and you don’t have to worry about whether I think you’re in the cool kids club or not. But that’s me, and I refuse to be an “ally”.)
Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot in cold blood by someone who took the time to post the fucking video online. That someone, Vester Flanagan, was a gay black man.
The cold harsh reality of life is that it is complex (beautifully, painfully complex), and cannot be summed up in simple categorizations based on hashtags, or whatever groups one identifies with. To simply categorize anyone is to dehumanize them.
And that’s not something I’m okay with.
I am aware that H.P. Lovecraft was a racist. For the record, I simply don’t give a shit.
Personally, I don’t think “awareness” is enough when it comes to problems such as these. Awareness is a cop-out. Go fucking do something, if you’re up in arms about an issue, or, alternatively, recognize the limitations of what you can do. I can be upset about Aylan Kurdi (and I am). I can be upset about all of these issues. But what I can’t do, realistically speaking, is anything to directly help the refugee situation, the victims of the latest shooting, or the outrage du jour. While posting about these things on social media might make some people feel better (by bringing “awareness”) to me, it’s (too often) an empty gesture.
If you want to find a helpful organization to give to, then please do. I respect that.
If I had money to spare, I’d probably do the same.
Life doesn’t check your hashtags to make sure you’re one of the Good Guys (please forgive my use of cis-gendered heteronormative binary privileged nomenclature here).
And while I concede and agree that we all deal with shit differently, I am also a firm believer in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew when it comes to these things:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them (verse 1)
When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others (verse 2)
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others (verse 5)
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting (verse 16).
So don’t assume my “silence” on an issue is apathy (even though it’s entirely possible it may sometimes be). For me, Facebook is not “life.” I owe you no explanations or reasons for my perceived silence on any issue. You don’t know what’s going on in my head, or my heart, or even my life.
Though now, close to 2,000 words later, you have a glimpse.