“Flotsam and jetsam” is a wonderful, evocative phrase. Originally relating to the debris of a shipwreck it became a generic term for things carried on the tide and on to meaning the odds and sods of life itself.
The flotsam and jetsam of a shoreline range from the smoothed piece of glass that looks like a jewel to the seaweed gathered together like Poseidon’s beard and the gnarled wood of some lost object. The addition of plastic bottles and supermarket bags could not detract from the romance of the treasures of the coast.
But no more. Not now I have seen the images of a little Syrian boy’s body washed up on a Turkish beach. From now on I will never be able to think of the wreckage of life carried on the currents without thinking about that little boy.
I cannot begin to imagine what would drive me from my homeland and risk the life of my family. But that image is enough to convince me that the people leaving Syria are not lured by the prospects of Job Seekers Allowance. They are fleeing for their lives and, often, paying with their lives.
All I want to do is gather that little boy’s lifeless body in my arms and hold him until the warmth returns to his small frame, air fills his lungs again and light shines from his eyes. Only the most heartless and twisted could feel any different. The truth is I cannot do a single thing for him. Not now. And that makes my sad heart burn with shame.
The emotion in me, the empathy in me that drives me to want to clutch that boy to me is the essence of humanity. And it is the essence of humanity that should cause us all to gather up every man, woman and child in his position and carry them to safety.
I cannot do it though. But my nation can. Our politicians can. The image of that little boy should spur any decent politician to shift the debate from hate to help. We need to help these people. Help them be safe, either in their own country or elsewhere.
Little boys should not be left to be the debris of life, washed up on a distant shoreline or suffocated in the back of a container lorry. They are not migrants, they are not refugees. They are not scroungers or illegals. They are little boys and little girls. They are mothers and fathers. They are you and me, born in different circumstances. Do not stand by and protect our little island shores. Do not build more fences. Do not turn your back on them. Find a way, any way, to help them. Please.