This blog is not intended to be a place where I stand on my soapbox and shout my opinions at people. It is intended to be a forum where I ask others about their thoughts and beliefs. It is intended to encourage open-mindedness and acceptance of everyone, of every belief structure and life path.
I did not write during the time of the Great Starbucks Cup Debacle, nor the Facebook Filter Snafu. Perhaps because I am lucky enough (or sheltered enough) to not know any people who voiced concerns over either trivial issue, so I was able to pretend that no one actually cared about such things.
However, I have seen postings on Facebook and the like about whether or not we should allow refugees into our country, into our states, into our homes. And while I prefer to write with a calm mind and a balanced perspective, at this moment in time, I am seething.
How dare you.
How DARE you?
So many of those I see sprouting this fear-based hatred, this bigotry, this vile closed-mindedness—you are the same people who claim a strong faith.
“Allowing refugees into our country opens us up to attack,” you say. “Terrorists are among the refugees,” you claim, holding strong to your fear and letting it bleed into your soul, letting it poison any lessons your scripture may have taught you, letting it rot your heart.
Syria, the attacks in Lebanon, the attacks in France—these are devastating, heart-wrenching demonstrations of hatred. The power of ISIS is hatred—a hatred created by fear. The leaders of ISIS crave power and they have planted a seed of fear that blossomed into the crises we are facing today. To gain their power, they needed to convert minds, and what better tool than our own human weakness? Our ability to fear others, to hate them, this is what allows us to fall into the blackness, into a group that menaces a modern society. The United States and Europe have held the power for a century, as powerful allies that decided the fate of nations, as enlightened republics seeking innovation, and to take that power, groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS must weaponize fear.
And so they have.
They spread the fear to gain recruits that we are evil and will destroy their homes if given a chance. They allow the fear to fester, to create a loathing more powerful than their own desires for life. And then they place the fear in us.
Terrorism is exactly that. It spreads terror. And I must say, we are letting them win.
I in no way intend to diminish the devastation these attacks have caused. The ruthlessness with which terrorists can take life is atrocious. I find myself bordering on hopelessness when I hear of humans taking other human lives—it takes such a lack of respect for the gift we have all been given, the life force we all share. It takes de-humanizing one another.
And that is what we do in turn when we refuse to open our doors to refugees.
It is so easy to spout words of hatred when you are not looking those you are affecting in the eye. When you do not know their stories, their own personal journeys. I seek here to learn about the journeys of as many people as possible, partially because I see that capacity for hatred in myself. It is easy for me to dismiss a person or a belief if I do not understand the story behind the person or the belief.
We cannot dismiss refugees in this way.
They are seeking asylum, they are seeking safety—the things we have in abundance, they have none. Is it not our responsibility as fellow humans to open our doors and our hearts to them? If you are Christian, do you not think that Jesus would be saddened by our lack of compassion for others? Would He have let fear corrupt Him in such a way?
Instead of being overly cautious, which is creating our worst selves, why not focus on the good we can do and being our best selves? This is not about who the refugees are. This is about who we are.
I was lucky enough to attend a high school where we openly discussed our beliefs and thoughts. This meant I was exposed to many different opinions. One day I was in a Spanish class and I don’t remember how the subject came up, but we were discussing terrorism and its effect on immigration. One student ventured the following:
“I don’t see why we allow people from certain countries into the United States. I don’t think we should.”
I was livid.
You may recall that my father is from one of those countries that the student was discussing. This was in the time of “The Axis of Evil”, the three countries we decided to fear the most.
I am certainly biased, but my father is one of the most kind and caring men I have ever met. He cares deeply for others—sometimes even to the detriment of his own well-being. He participates in charity work and is well respected in his field. He is a citizen of the United States and I believe his story is just one of many variations of the American Dream.
Does his Iranian ethnicity make him unworthy of living here?
If we had decided to turn Iranians away during the Iranian Revolution and the aftermath, if he had been deported as a student, I don’t know what would have happened to him. But I can’t imagine he would have had a very good life. He has always been vocal about inequality and injustice (unsurprising, as he is an attorney). I shudder to think what would have happened once the Muslim government found out about his liberal leanings—or what he would have done. Many of his friends became revolutionaries. Would he have done the same? Would he have been imprisoned? Would he have been killed?
The Syrian refugees and refugees around the world deserve our love and support in this dire time. Any other reaction is unworthy of our status as fellow humans. In the end, we are all made of the same materials, the same atomic structures—“We’re made of star stuff,” as Carl Sagan once said. When we dismiss the humanity of others and their needs, we lose the light of the stars that we contain in our beings, and we embrace fear, the darkness. I believe we should instead embrace one another, and thus embrace the light.