How children change the way we think about war

Published 12:06 AM EDT, Sat August 20, 2016
(CNN) —  

To a fortunate many, war is an abstraction and the suffering it brings, though easy to understand, is hard to truly imagine. It’s one of the reasons war photography and images of conflict are so essential. They bring these concepts into blinding focus and deny us the luxury of looking away.

Who could ignore an image of a young refugee’s lifeless body washed up on a beach, the desperate quest for a better life extinguished before it could be fulfilled? Who wouldn’t be moved, disturbed even, by a child screaming and covered in her parents’ blood?

There’s a reason so many of these indelible images are often of children. While war seeks to paint in black and while, good and evil; a child is never the enemy. And yet, they are so often the victims. To see a child this way is to see war without politics or ideologies. What’s left underneath is just crushing human sorrow.

The image of a young boy caked in ashes and blood on the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria, is the latest in this grim, yet ultimately necessary montage.

Why, ever, would such immortalized heartbreak be necessary? Because it’s easy to lose focus. Violence is so widespread, yet often so far away, and our hyperconnected consumption means burnout or disinterest can set in at an alarming rate.

We may know, intellectually, what a tragedy it is that more then 4,500 Syrian children have been killed in Aleppo in the last five years alone. We may think we know the real cost of conflict.

As the photos in gallery above show, it sometimes takes a singular excruciating image for it to truly sink in.