First and foremost, I want to give a major shout-out to Tory for writing an insightful post reflecting on the tragedy in Paris that unfolded this weekend. If you haven’t read it yet, I definitely suggest it; you can find it on our home page.
After the dust settled on Friday, the world reacted in a whirlwind. News and media outlets began to run in a thousand different directions. I have read countless news articles and tweets regarding these occurrences in the last week that I have become lost in how to feel. Sad, of course, for the victims of these attacks and their families and friends. Angry, that someone would feel the urge to kill innocent people. Fearful, thinking about where this might happen next. Concerned, and without a clue how to fix the problems this world is facing.
In that mess of media, one story stood out to me in particular. I read this story about a man in New York who caught a cab home late Friday evening. His driver happened to be Muslim and mentioned to his passenger that he was his first customer that evening – no one wanted to ride with him. The passenger apologized for those who had treated him poorly, but the driver cried the entire ride to his house. He is being victimized by the extremists in his religion and it is clear his livelihood has been deeply affected. This makes me feel awful.
Then on Monday, I woke up to learn that over half of U.S. governors have made announcements that they may refuse to let Syrian refugees in their states. This is a revolt against President Obama’s existing plan to allow 10,000 refugees of the Syrian civil war into the U.S. next year, and they are calling for a review in the refugee screening process. The governors’ argument goes as such: Syrian refugees (actually escaping war) that made their way into Europe allowed for extremists to enter as well. The fear is that this would and could happen in the U.S. as well. Recently elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that House is “likely to vote this week on legislation that would temporarily halt the resettlement plan.” Donald Trump compared allowing refugees to a “Trojan horse,” and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said “I don’t think orphans under five…should be admitted into the United States at this point.” Yikes. At what point does safety and security trump humanity and sympathy?
Weren’t we all just appalled at the infant who drowned a few months ago trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea? Didn’t we just see hordes of exhausted war refugees walking thousands of miles through Europe to seek safety and a better life? Now that Paris has happened, public opinion has shifted. Suddenly, we don’t want to help fellow members of our human race. Suddenly, all Syrians are a part of ISIS. I can understand the fear that we all must be feeling. That’s the point of terror attacks. But before the civil war, families lived in Syria. Kids played soccer in the street and mothers cooked dinner. You know, stuff you remember from your own American childhood. Now, these families don’t have a home. It’s been bombed. They might not even have much of a town left to call home. So they’ve left, because they can’t see it getting any better. But they’ve realized no one wants them. So where do they go? Where can we find them a new home? We’re going to reject ALL refugees because some might be bad? I’m feeling very concerned about this, as is the United Nations. Today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a statement:
We are concerned about reactions by some States to end the programs being put in place, backtracking from commitments made to manage the refugee crisis (i.e. relocation), or proposing the erection of more barriers. We are deeply disturbed by language that demonizes refugees as a group. This is dangerous as it will contribute to xenophobia and fear. The security problems Europe faces are highly complex. Refugees should not be turned into scapegoats and must not become the secondary victims of these most tragic events.
Clearly what has happened in Paris could happen anywhere. But would halting refugees at our borders really slow down a terrorist on a mission? I should assume that if they really wanted in, they would find a way otherwise. I’m sure there’s terrorists here now. What i’m not sure about is barring innocent people from the opportunity of a better, more peaceful life.
I think this is one of the great flaws of of the human race. We tend to generalize whole groups based on the few. It is horribly wrong. It is not MUSLIMS that are against the Western way of life. It is Muslim EXTREMISTS. Christianity is the most popular religion in the U.S., but the KKK exists as well. One of my favorite tv shows of all time is The West Wing, and if you’ve got the time, this is a great clip on this very subject (it aired in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks).
I think we all need to try to be more inclusive of one another. We need to help our neighbor up when they are down. And most of all, we need to put ourselves in another’s shoes. We all might just see things we’ve never seen before.