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
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
Note: (According to the NYT of 11/25/15 the Tsarnaev brothers were not refugees. They came seeking political asylum.)
By Nancy Brisson
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.
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.