Perhaps it’s because I lived so many years in places where I was the ‘outsider.’ Perhaps it’s because 10 of those years were spent in Muslim countries. Perhaps it’s because I’ve traveled. A lot. As have my children, my husband, many of my friends & family. I have soooo many friends who are ‘other': Muslim, Hindu, Bahá’í, Wiccan, agnostic, atheist. Not to mention ‘of colour’ — certainly an ‘other’ in today’s legal system. Or gay, another ‘other’ category, these days.
I’m sure it’s partly because I’ve devoted my professional career to inclusion, to colouring outside the mainstream lines (white, WASP, mostly male). Although we could try & track down the roots of these interests, as well.
Whatever it is, I’m at odds w/ much of my extended family on the Syrian refugee crisis. Despite the fact that my entire maternal line is devoutly Christian, all are summarily against extending sanctuary to ANY Syrian refugee. Now, I will add that many in my extended family also believe Ben Carson to be a viable candidate for president (need I mention that his anti-intelligence stance, as well as his total unfamiliarity w/ policy or geography or much else other than the human brain, appalls me?). And they accept the right-wing stance that we currently don’t vet immigrants thoroughly, particularly not refugees. When in fact, the process by which we check-out refugees is strenuous, taking up to two years. Various security checks are made, an in-person interview is held, medical clearance must be given, and there must be sponsoring organisations that maintain contact w/ each refugee.
In other words, the idea that refugees are just ‘let in’ is a product of sound bites by ambitious politicos, not fact.
But my family (and some colleagues, even a few friends) continue to circulate various ‘articles’ (mostly op-eds, like this one, but with far fewer sources!) warning of the dire consequences if we show compassion to these displaced families.
Did I mention families? Because the situation is made so much more dire — so much more heart-rending, at least for me — by the pictures of the small Syrian children waiting to find a place they will finally be safe.
To be fair, the accusations of racism on the part of liberals (when fear is far more likely) inflame an already igneous situation. If you don’t know any Muslims, or only one or two, you are far more apt to believe the histrionics of local politicians. Especially the politicians in Oklahoma: our governor has already said she will not take any refugees (how she can constitutionally avoid this, I’m uncertain, but civics isn’t a strong part of OK leadership). Tulsa’s mayor is also ‘deeply concerned’ about the ‘safety’ of ‘his’ citizens.
While I’m concerned for the children who have drowned trying to get to safety. The parents who have died trying to get those children to safe haven.
Thus, I was accused of caring more for (Muslim) strangers than for my fellow Americans. Which isn’t true. Nor is it true that the current comparison — of the refugees (mostly middle-class families in their previous lives) to homeless panhandlers and questionably murderous hitchhikers — is in any way accurate.
This child was holding her hands up as a photographer pointed a camera at her. She thought it was a gun. I’m sure you can see that she’s very dangerous — dangerously heart-breaking. And yet I know very good people — people who believe firmly in Jesus & his teachings suffer the little children — who are terrified of her, her family. Anyone in the camp where she is now.
Such people would have us believe that this little girl (& her family) are mentally unbalanced — like the alleged hitchhiker no ‘sane’ person would pick up. But here’s the deal: there is NO comparison by anyone who goes farther than those sound bites. EACH of the refugees accepted by the US (a paltry 10,000) will be thoroughly, professionally investigated. I don’t get that assurance with a hitchhiker. If I did? I’d probably pick one up. I used to, back in the days of my youthful innocence. It was a way to help.