It is easy to remain blissfully unaware of the tragedy surrounding Middle Eastern refugees when you are an individual who has no personal ties with immigration, refugees, or war. It is easy to divert your sympathy when you are busy saving up for your next splurge, or planning a holiday. It is easy to avoid the images that have been captured by newspapers and news channels over the last four years when you have never in your life experienced the desperation that these refugees have, the desperation that Abdullah Kurdi must have felt when he tried to keep his family alive after the rubber dinghy that promised to bring them to safety capsized.
When the heartbreaking photos of Abdullah’s youngest son Aylan, the toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach Wednesday, surfaced online, #RefugeeCrisis trended steadily on Twitter. I read about Aylan’s death Friday and when I was finished, I looked up from my computer and gazed with teary eyes at the peaceful vista outside my bedroom window feeling not only outraged, but terribly ashamed. I felt ashamed that it took me this long to give the faces of the Syrian Civil War more than just a passing glance. What is even more shameful is that I am not the only one who has remained this inattentive to the severity of the situation. How could it be that during the Age of Information, there is only a select group of technologically savvy people who take a vested interest in the Syrian conflict? Part of the reason is that in addition to the readily accessible information, we also have Netflix, social media, Vines, and other pleasant distractors to tune into. How many times have you heard someone say, or have you yourself said, “After a long day at work, I just want to watch something mindless.”? I believe in the power of taking breaks, but when those of us who are privileged enough to string together such a sentence juxtapose our daily stressors to the experiences of the refugees desperately fleeing their war torn homes, it sounds just as mindless as the garbage that we are filling our downtime with. Yet as a country we have failed to respond appropriately. Some argue that Canadians are facing their own crisis: an economic recession. “For many people, they say that the economy is where the vote will be, rather than the issue of refugees they have never met and probably will never see,” said David Walmsley, Editor of The Globe and Mail Friday on CBC’s, The Current. Economic wealth over humanity. Shame on us.
A few days have passed since the world first saw the photo of the lifeless toddler lying face down in the sand. His name has disappeared from my trend feed, along with “refugee crisis.” Each has since been replaced by #BachelorInParadise and #NASCAR, implicating that North Americans felt compassion for a moment before returning to their comfortable lives of luxury and entitlement. It is time to start devoting the same level of effort to learning about the Syrian conflict and what we can do to help as we do to catching up on our new favourite television series. It is time to stop changing the channel.
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