Last weekend, when I was playing foosball with my ten year-old nephew, he suddenly blurted out that he hated ISIS. He was on a roll with a very funny commentary about politics, so I didn’t interrupt him to find out more concerning just what he understood about the terrorist group. Plus, I was focused on the foosball, with the hope of avoiding suffering another humiliating loss to my nephew.
I would like to know what my nephew would do to stop ISIS/ISIL/”so-called Islamic state”/Un-Islamic Non-State/whatever it is currently being called from hurting anyone else. I often like to view things from a child’s perspective, because it helps cut through the BS that adults are so good at layering onto issues.
It was easy for me to view the Syrian Civil War from the eyes of a child after the Ghouta chemical attack back in August 2013. Children were among those gassed – possibly by their own government led by President Bashar al-Assad. Assad’s government claimed that opposition forces were responsible. Whomever was to blame, the images circulated by the media made it clear that the children were the blameless victims of a conflict fueled by sectarianism and other stupid games that adults play. It inspired me to write a poem that I thought was addressing a temporary current event in 2013. I thought that poem would eventually be buried under other poetry inspired by fleeting news of the moment.
Unfortunately, that poem has stayed in the forefront of my mind the past few years, as Syria has continued to experience sectarian conflict, which has involved ISIS. It seems that the issue moves to the forefront of the collective American mind when the media delivers a piece from the perspective of a child – like when a three year-old Syrian boy, named Aylan, washed up on the shores of Turkey after attempting to flee the conflict in Syria with his family by boat. When exposure to such disturbing images ceases, we Americans tend to return to our comfortable lives and forget about what children endure throughout the world as a result of grown-up antics.
I like to think about what our world would be like if ten year-olds ran it. I like to imagine that if my nephew challenged the leaders of ISIS to a game of foosball he would kick their butts, while distracting them with a witty commentary on how ridiculous they appear to most of the world. In a ten year-old’s world children should have fun and good guys should win. And the bad guys should lose and experience the winner doing an in your face-style victory dance.
I wish that ISIS – and all other terrorist groups – would lose the very ugly BS laden game they are pretending to play in the name of Allah. Then the Syrian children who are lucky enough to survive could possibly have a chance of experiencing what childhood is meant to be – filled with games that don’t have life-threatening consequences. If that happened, I could move the poem I wrote about Syrian children to my long-forgotten current events pile – and do my own victory dance.
Morning found you dead.
Last night you slept
in your bed
on the wrong side of the world—
where sheets of democracy
don’t yet unfurl
on your mother’s clothesline.
You got tangled up
in the winding manner of bad dreams
caused by your father’s waving banner—
woven to protect you during sleep.
© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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