ROME — The year begins with the absurd destiny of two children, both tiny victims of a war that we'd rather not see. On the left is a screen-grab image of a shockingly young boy who is featured in the first propoganda video of 2016 by the butchers of ISIS. Like adults members of the terror group, he wears a camouflage uniform and black headband in his curly hair. By the looks of it, he doesn't even seem old enough to go to school, but that hasn't stopped the Islamist killers from teaching him the fine art of threatening others.
In the video, he is seen stretching his cute little arm outward to indicate a position in the distance that promises death to all infidels beyond the horizon. It is meant to inspire fear, but it prompts pity instead — though not quite as much as the child inside the small coffin in the image on the right. We know only his name, Khalid, his age — two years old — and the inevitable reason he found himself plying the icy waters of the Aegean Sea in the middle of winter, on a boat destined to crash against the rocks: His young Syrian mother wanted to spare him from a childhood of war. The wooden casket helps shield our own sensitivities, because after the picture of little Aylan lying dead on a Turkish beach, we require ever more shocking images to feel outraged.
The year has started like this: one child trapped in war promising death, another dying in an attempt to flee war. There are no words or morals to this story, only the duty not to close our eyes.