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His name is Aylan and he is Kurdish, the small child I see lying face down on a European shore. He died as his family tried to escape Syria, and the images of his tiny lifeless body has sparked an understandable anger across the world.
I feel the same outrage in me, and I know where I want to place that pain and condemnation – at the feet of President Barack Obama.
For the better (or worse) part of six years, Obama has tilted the world to this point, where children float up on foreign shores and families place their fate and belongings in a broken vessel to go anywhere other than where they’ve been.
An hour or so before I saw this picture, I found out that Senator Barbara Mikulski became the deciding vote needed to secure Obama’s Iran deal in Congress. Because the president has been single-mindedly focused on that deal — because he’s been willing to subordinate every other concern in the Middle East to cementing his legacy — we see floods of Arab refugees seeking shelter on European soil. Those who cannot flee are either displaced within the region or become unwilling stars of one of the many horror videos touted by that group with many names and little sovereignty.
There was a time not that long ago when ISIS did not exist and when I had never seen a man beheaded or burnt alive for the world to see. Now images of Yazidi girls sold in slavery pass by my feed alongside memes and selfies. I had gotten so desensitized that I almost forgot that this brutality hasn’t always been part of my existence.
Then I saw that boy, like trash on the beach, with no one to claim him, and I remembered. I remembered how Obama chose to empower Assad, partner with Iran, forgo red lines and destabilize the Middle East.
This is supposed to be the President of humane ideals and progressive values. Yet on his watch young girls are systematically raped in the Levant while the White House spends its time fretting about hookups on college campuses? This commander-in-chief says all options are on the table — yet when Americans are beheaded on screen his response consists of offering PR advice to the terrorists responsible? Not only can’t I make sense of it, but I cannot fathom where the world will be in the 505 days we have left until this man leaves office.
His name is Aylan. He was three years old and he lost his life because his family decided that the unknown on the other side of that dark ocean was safer than the hellhole their country had become. To me, that is, and will forever be, President Obama’s legacy: That child with his face in the water, and the growing evil that placed him there.
His name is Aylan. And his life matters too.