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Aylan’s Shoes

Peace on Earth and goodwill to all — in a world of conflict, tis the season of peace.

I write about the peaceful angels of our nature every holiday season. I hope to replace “conflict” with “love” soon. Another year over, and it was full of war. But we cannot expect the end of war without first realizing what war is.

Those of us in western nation states, especially those of us my age (born in 1984), have grown up with a steady climate of peace. Violence exists in our society, sure, but recognition of the destructive nature of war is largely missing. Even the attacks of September the 11th, or the Paris attacks of this year, as horrific and terrifying as they were, pale in comparison to the leveling of entire cities — a common element of war.

In Losing the War, Chicago author Lee Sandlin paints a vivid picture of the destructive chaos that is war. Sandlin writes poignantly about the nature of World War II and describes how devastating war can be. Soldiers and civilians alike, slaughtered. Children unable to even begin realizing their potential. War fever and a flood of patriotism, the pounding of the drums of war escalating the violence — on all sides. Endless amounts of culture lost, history buried in ruin, jingoism, fear, and an endless destruction of property. War is much more than political struggle, it is the death of humanity.

War is made possible by systems of power and domination. This is true of the violent war-making regimes of yesterday, and it is still true today. It is important to remember that the most violent among us are caged by an inhumane ideology. Those with a thirst for war are themselves dominated by and stuck within systems of power — be they the politicians, their supportive subjects or violent terror cells. Warmongers wish to dominate, as opposed to participate in, humanity. They are captives in need of liberation.

These systems of power thrive on the obedience of their subjects. Once these institutions are challenged, once the environment that grants them power is changed, their authority is called into question. They become feckless when challenged by humanity.

I am a big believer in humanity. It is important to remember that all races and all creeds labor together, peacefully, globally, everyday. The creative, inclined labor of human beings builds markets, mutual aid, relief, commons regimes, charity and generally decent societies. Human labor crafts peace.

Peace is liberty. When peace is realized every human being will be free to pursue their own interests and develop their capacities into individual and social account. We all deserve such liberty, especially the most vulnerable among us — children.

The current global conflict is responsible for the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The war-torn Middle East is experiencing human destruction on a heart-breaking scale. One image of this war in particular has struck the hearts of many — the lifeless body of a Syrian child. The child and his family were fleeing Syria, a country torn apart by western interventionism, a brutal dictator and a vicious terror regime vying for power. The family was in the final trek of their journey, crossing the sea, seeking refuge in Europe, when their 15 foot boat capsized. The boy washed ashore on a Turkish beach. His name was Aylan Kurdi. He was just three years old. Aylan’s five-year-old brother, Galip, and his mother, Rehan, also drowned. His father, Abdullah, is the only surviving family member.

I am broken by the photograph of Aylan’s lifeless body. I am a father with a toddler of my own. So much about being a dad fills my heart with joy. One of the simplest activities that makes me so happy is putting on my son’s shoes. I sit on the floor and ask the boy if he would like to put on his shoes. He (usually) nods and with a confident “yeah” he picks up his shoes and sits on my lap. Once there, he raises his little foot in the air and looks at me — time to go do something fun. My heart bursts. The first thing I notice in the photograph of Aylan is his shoes. They will carry him no more. There are no more experiences left for the child to explore — he’s been robbed of his pursuit of happiness.

This is the reality of war.

Cherish life, the most precious gift. Never doubt that we can and will build a real and lasting peace. Human liberty will make life on Earth worth living. There will be a peace for every child of humanity.

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Grant A. Mincy is a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org) where he holds the Elinor Ostrom Chair in Environmental Studies and Commons Governance. He also blogs at appalachianson.wordpress.com. In addition, Mincy is an associate editor of the Molinari Review and an Energy & Environment Advisory Council Member for the Our America Initiative. He earned his Masters degree in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of Tennessee in the summer of 2012. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee where he teaches both Biology and Geology at area colleges.

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