The picture of little Aylan Kurdi face down on a Turkish beach has changed the public conversation on the plight of refugees profoundly for the better. The pain on the face of his father, and the photos of him in happier times, have reinforced the deeply human core of this tragedy. It is utterly shocking that it took the suffering and death of a 3 year old to shatter the apparent consensus between politicians, and much of the media, that the British drawbridge should be shut to all but the rich and white.
It is wonderful to see that drawbridge being lowered by the amazing commitment of so many people willing to give to others whom they have never met before, but whose suffering has moved them so deeply.
Such dedication by so many to serve the stranger challenges the dehumanising narrative of many politicians and commentators whose attitudes are so damaging to us as a nation. I do not want to live in a country that ignores the plight of those who are suffering, and does so by mockery and pejorative metaphor. The idea that it is acceptable in any way, shape or form to call refugees cockroaches> is a move into the kind of group thinking that created the space for the rise of genocide. The term “swarm” is not far behind.
To use that kind of language to describe our fellow human beings is to dance on the graves of those whose sacrifice in times past gave us our freedom. Let us hope that little Aylan’s death, and the extraordinary response from so many people, will bring those who still hold fast the false security of the drawbridge to their senses – or that they are removed and some-one with a proper sense of humanity is given the opportunity to lead our public conversation on the complex issues of living in the 21st century global village.