The Children Among Syria’s Ruins
By Michael Gerson | OCTOBER 15, 2015
A 5-year-old Syrian refugee explains the picture he has drawn: “This is a boy. This is a bed. This is a bomb. This is an apple.” Wondering whether the apple has some special significance to him, I ask (through an interpreter) why he included it. He looks at me like an idiot foreigner. “Because I like apples.”
It is the bomb that is out of place in his memory. Other children around the low table, ages 4 to 6, have drawn pictures depicting helicopters, explosions, burning buildings and sniper rifles. “My home is all broken in Syria,” one girl explains. Another girl’s drawing includes her mother, a house, a fire, a scorpion. “A rocket came,” she says quietly, “and hit my father in the head.” When the children are asked what they hope to be when they grow up, a 5-year-old boy offers, “I want to be ISIS.” Which clearly represents strength to him, in the midst of helplessness.
The young can be admirably resilient. But seldom in history have adults managed to traumatize children on so vast a scale. What will be the eventual effects of millions of children torn from their homes, exposed to violence, hardened by loss, deprived (in many cases) of education and introduced to the hatreds and resentments of their elders? We yawn at a civilizational catastrophe, then complain about how violent all these foreigners seem to be.
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