Category Archives: Syrian refugees

Refugee Reality Check

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We keep thinking about what might happen if we do accept Syrian refugees. But perhaps we need to think about what will happen if we don’t accept Syrian refugees.

If we do accept refugees from Syria we are nervous that terrorists may make it to America. I am a true chicken. I understand fear. It feels scary to host people who could harbor hate against us. We are assured that we screen refugees with such care that it is highly unlikely anyone could get through the process but we remember Boston and those Tsarnaev brothers who came in as refugees and were radicalized once they were here. Our fears are not baseless but we must admit that the number of refugees that might become bad actors will be very small. We live almost daily with shootings. These threats hardly seem different from the many mass shootings we have experienced. As for enabling an enormous influx of rabid terrorists – only a full scale invasion could do that and I don’t think our enemies have that capability yet.

The reasons, beyond the humanitarian ones, in favor of accepting Syrian refugees are much more compelling. First, we cannot afford to let the Republicans, who want to get elected in 2016, play us. If they make us frightened enough and then offer to save us with their toughness they believe this fear will drive us to put a Republican in the White House. Please prove to the GOP that you are not that easily manipulated.

An even greater reason why we have to fight our fears and accept Syrian refugees is because we owe it to our allies in Europe and elsewhere. We have hung back in two world wars because they did not begin in America, but we eventually fought with our allies when we understood that if our friends lost we would only have enemies left.

This time the “war” began with us, very dramatically, on 9/11. This attack was a game changer and our old friends stood with us once more. Now we must not try to isolate ourselves even though our fears may prove real (although, I suspect, not on the scale GOP candidates warn of). We must stand with the friends we have forged as we have battled to keep the free world free. We must even accept old opponents as allies for as long as they prove true to our common goals. We cannot expect Europe to deal all alone with people fleeing terrorists. Even though there is a big ocean between us we cannot afford to use this geographical advantage to remain relatively safe and aloof. I doubt it will work for long and, in the end, we will wish we had stuck with our alliances.

More selfishly, flooding Europe with refugees could put Europe’s economy in jeopardy. Our economic fates are tied together and are just one aspect of the ways in which our individual existences as powerful political entities are closely connected.

We are Americans. We need to suck it up and stand with our friends.

Note: (According to an article in the NYT on 11/25/15 the Tsarnaev brothers were not in America as refugees. They were granted political asylum.)

By Nancy Brisson

US Involvement in Syria

 
 
Drat! Those American ideals are pulling us back into conflict in the Middle East, this time in Syria. Obviously, when nearly 100,000 people are killed anywhere on the planet we are grieved and angered. We want the carnage to stop and we all think about whether America should help stop it. In this case we have people who are also fighting against an authoritarian leader who they want to be free of. It is written in our DNA that we will feel sympathy for the rebels. We are always the Rebel Alliance fighting against the Empire in our hearts. But – we have just slowed down the devastating parade of maimed soldiers arriving back in the US everyday from our recent endeavors in the Middle East. These soldiers have not even been processed by their government to receive their benefits. We have not yet finished mourning our dead soldiers who still arrive under their flag-draped caskets. We have hardly given a breather to our soldiers who have been at war seemingly forever. Our heads and our guts say that we should help this rebel army; our hearts can’t bear to do it.

There is a question of whether or not we will make America irrelevant in the Middle East unless we stay involved with freedom fighters and offer military support. Humanitarian support does not count apparently. We only get points if we put blood and guts in the game. But we haven’t earned any points by bleeding on the sands of the Middle East so far. The opinions of both Iraq and Afghanistan seem distinctly tinged with anti-Americanism. Perhaps this “revolution” in the Middle East is not as far along as we would like to think it. Deposing an authoritarian leader does not mean that Syria is ready to be a democracy or that the country ever will want to be democratic. There is also the point that we could make our democracy look a bit more appealing if we want to persuade people that our form of government works best. That might be a good place to start. Although our politicians often give us idealistic reasons for entering a war, their real reasons are often quite a bit more pragmatic. I’m not sure what those pragmatic concerns are but they are the ones that make us less than proud sometimes.

There are several complexities to consider when it comes to jumping into the conflict with Syria on the side of the rebels and we have heard those before. The rebels are not one unified group and, in our experience, which has recently become very personal, we have learned that once the rebels win the war a new civil war will often have to be fought among the various rebel groups to decide which group will get to formulate the new government, or perhaps a coalition will arise (not likely). And in Syria we also have elements of terrorists groups which we have no desire to support; not to mention that we would be pitting ourselves against Putin and Russia.

Call me crazy, but it seems as if there is a preponderance of reasons not to involve ourselves in the revolution in Syria but that word revolution has such a pull on the American psyche that we are almost powerless to resist the siren call of people who are oppressed and longing to be free. I am glad that I am not the President. I don’t want us to get more involved in Syria, but I understand why we probably will.

 

Paradoxes

I’m still trying to recover from this bout with bronchitis so I have been spending a lot of time curled up under a down throw on the living room sofa with plenty of pillows drowsing the cold days away. CNN is always on in the background and I tune in for a while, alternate that with a nap, and then I tune in again.  The news is not exactly great for escaping reality and I couldn’t help but notice the shooter who walked into a California school on this news day or the ferry accident the day before or any of the other sad events that parade across my TV screen daily. But the story that touched my heart the most was the one about the Syrian refugees in Jordan who are living in tents as cold rain pours down on these families who have already been through so much. I’ve been cold and I’ve been wet, but I have never had to be both for days at a time. I have never watched children suffer with cold and dampness and lack of any comfort when I could do nothing for them.

Our world can be such a hard place sometimes. There is a voyeuristic quality to wrapping up in my blanket on my sofa watching people a world away living in misery. I cannot help them. I can’t wave a wand and create a dry place for them to huddle away from the cold. I can’t magically dry their bedding and find them all clean sheets and pillow cases and tuck them into soft clean beds, but I wish I could. To have the technology to see people almost in real time, people who are uprooted by war and fear, and yet to face the fact that I am not able to push a button and provide for them in real time is a very helpless feeling. It is not as if making my reality less comfortable will make their reality more comfortable but there is guilt and there is also a sense that our overuse of fossil fuels has, in a sense, contributed to the misery of others through climate change.

I can see that the resources of our nations are stretched thin. Even though the weather was predicted in advance, apparently no one had the necessary resources to provide for these refugees. There are so many babies and small children. They don’t have proper clothing: no boots, no winter coats, no scarves, no hats, no gloves. Of course, this is a political situation, the fortunes of war, so to speak. If this were a natural disaster it would be easier to jump in to help. Here there are all kinds of sensitivities that must be considered. Perhaps we are not really free to provide assistance.

Who helps refugees in war time? Who helps people who have lost their homes and who now may lose their children?  Are our economies so debt-ridden we can no longer dole out millions for each of the continuing crises that keep cropping up all around the world at this particular time? If there is nothing we can do I would rather not know what is happening, but it doesn’t really feel right to shut out the unpleasant realities of our world either. I hope that what the Syrian people are able to win in the end will be worth the heartbreaking upheaval they have experienced. I hope the fighting will end and people will be able to return to their homes. We think you are very brave.