He's a three year old child. Any loving family's son. Red t-shirt, blue shorts. Two little shoes still Velcro'd to his feet. He could be asleep. If only he were. To awake free from the violence, and it was violence, his mother felt it necessary to flee from. To awake to her embrace, safe, safe from the threat of death. No chance of meeting new friends in a free society, of discovering all of his talents, no opportunity to become a man. He is gone. No buts, ifs, ands or maybes.
He was loved, clearly. His name was Aylan. He was carried onto a small, completely unsafe, and no doubt overcrowded boat by his mother, who considered the journey to be vital to the lives of her sons and herself. His five year old brother is also gone. No buts. They are just gone.
One moment he is being held, squeezed, loved. The next, well, there are pictures for that.
They are by no means the first, or last, to be known to us only by their tragic ends, flashed momentarily across social media, or for perhaps a day longer in print. But the fate of this boy has spread, and affected many. Not because of his nationality, or how he got to be on that Turkish beach, or what he must have seen in his short life. No, it affects us, us here in the west, us with our stupidly fast broadband connections with which to see him, us with our filtered water flowing from our fridges to drink while we stare, us with our satellite TV so we can watch media personalities shake their heads in shock at how he almost made it to freedom. Us, on our couches, chairs, in our beds, all of us, are affected because we look at him, lying peacefully face down in the sand, and we let the image flash in our minds, eyes open or closed, it doesn't matter, and we do not see a refugee – we see a little boy in a red t-shirt, blue shorts, and two little shoes. We see a child dressed for a day filled with fun and smiles, and happiness.
We see our own kids.
No buts, ifs, maybes or ands.