(Image via mercycorps.org)
When did we become so cruel?
When did we become the kind of country where rejection of our own core values is okay? Where the words “bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” are meaningless and where we only want you if you are not tired, you are not poor, you work in the tech or medical industries, and you are Christian?
How did we become a country where a top presidential candidate can seriously suggest a registration system for certain classes of citizens/residents and not be denounced as a crank? When did it become okay to spend years screening victims of terrorism and war for entry into the United States, only to have state governors turn them away?
How is it possible that we as a nation have fallen so willingly and blindingly into the cultural and ethical trap ISIS and similar terrorist organizations have set for us?
I keep seeing the number of 10,000 being bandied around as the number of Syrian (and Iraqi) refugees our enormous country has agreed to accept. I don’t know if this number is correct (I suspect it is close), but if it is correct, it is a tiny fraction of the millions of people, many of them children, who have been displaced both by ISIS aggression and the war efforts against them.
I’ve heard the argument that rich Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait should do more to care for the refugees, and I don’t dispute that. However, when I think of places like Saudi Arabia, where they practice a version of Islam so extreme they are unlikely to even recognize most of the refugees as Muslim and are known to be tremendous violators of human rights, I don’t expect kindness and charity from them.
WE are a nation of immigrants who are supposed to be better than that, and I DO expect better from us.
I’ve heard arguments that if we let the Syrians refugees in, how will we be able to tell the victims from terrorists trying to gain access to this country? Other than the brutally intensive screening process they already endure, I can’t say it’s impossible that some terrorists will slip through. At the same time, most of our terrorist events lately have been mass shootings by young, white American men in places like colleges, schools, and theaters. Should we propose to screen all young, white American men for the sorts who gun down innocent people going about their day? Should we ban young, white American men from our theaters, schools, and colleges on the off chance that some of them might be mass shooters? Of course not.
The bill making its way through Congress right now is designed to make the immigration process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees even more complex than the years-long process it already is. Remember, some of these refugees from Iraq are people who have HELPED us. As their own country was being torn apart, largely by us or because of us, they were our translators and guides at great personal risk to themselves and their families and the very least we can do for them is allow them into this country. As for the Syrian refugees, how can we turn our backs on families and children who are fleeing terrorism and war and still call ourselves Americans?
By rejecting our ethical obligation to be the humanitarians we claim to be, we are rejecting those values that make us who we are.
I know who I want to be, do you?