Do you recall the scene from the musical “Oliver” when little Oliver gazes out the window to the busy street below and his loneliness at being an orphan flows over into his voice as he sings, oh so plaintively, “Where oh where oh where is love?”
II thought of this scene from Oliver when I gazed at a you tube photo of another little boy, this one in a red shirt and blue shorts, whose body lay face down on the shores of the Mediterranean. Another sad and lonely boy but this one was all too real This little kid was dead.
Oliver was fiction and eventually he found his mother and family but there was no Hollywood ending to the story of the little Syrian boy, whose name was Aylan.
When the picture of the boy lying as though asleep in the sand first flashed across the screen on television, the producers warned us that the photo of the little boy might be too graphic for their audience.
They wanted us to be able to shield our eyes from the awful truth of innocence betrayed, and what really happens to little immigrant children caught up in a nightmare they had no part in causing.
But you know something? We needed to look at this little boy because he was one of us. Little Aylan didn’t drop from Mars. He was family and now he is dead. And if many of us shed a tear at the sight, maybe we owed him at least that token of our caring. Hopefully, we can do more.
The little three-year-old’s lifeless body was a sermon in flesh to the rest of us that we can’t afford to ignore. As Americans we have always stood tall in responding to the human needs of our brothers and sisters all over the world. It’s who we are; it’s what we do.
President Obama has pledged that we will take in 10,000 refugees. That’s a start. But we need to do more. We need to demonstrate to the world that the true wealth of our nation lies not in our gross national product but in the generosity of its people.
A generation ago, a past generation of Americans dug down deep to help the impoverished and desperate victims of World War 2 with the Marshall Plan. We can do it again.
Where oh where is love? It’s right here in this big hearted generous land of immigrants. Let’s do it for Aylan.