Monday, June 18, 2018

On Refugees

About two and a half years ago I got into an argument with someone on Facebook.

Shocking, I know.

What prompted it was that I had posted an article about France re-committing itself to taking in refugees following a terrorist attack that had left 129 dead, and I had lauded them (the French) as true heroes.  Someone who I didn't know (presumably the racist aunt of a friend - we all have one of those racist Facebook aunts) got into an argument with me.

 They post a lot of "memes" with Looney Tunes or Minions spouting Cathy-style phrases. 
The Shut Up I'm Still Talking Facebook page is a goldmine for this kind of thing.
If it's satire it's some of the best artwork of our generation and its creator is a savant.

Now seems like a good time to take about immigrants and, more specifically, refugees.

Racist Aunt is very often a Christian who likes to talk about what The Bible says.

In case you were wondering, it says this:

Exodus 22:21 – “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – "When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

And don't get me STARTED on Deuteronomy.  (Chapter ten: "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt."  Chapter twenty-four:  " Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns... Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge...."  Chapter twenty-seven: "Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”)

ANYWAYS.  I commented on the story by pointing out that history is repeating itself.  Before World War 2, most Americans did not want to accept Jewish refugees.  And we all know what happened.

Why, I pondered, did some people show such solidarity with France, but not Syria? People are people regardless of skin color. For civilians caught in the crossfire of war and terrorism, we as humans have a commitment to help our brothers and sisters.  Most immigrants are refugees, escaping from incredibly bad situations.  Why don't we want to help them?

Enter Racist Aunt.

"Really?  You don't know why?" she asked.

"I assumed racism," I answered glibly.  (This is the correct answer.)

Then she cited 9/11.

"So," I said, "you think that, due to the actions of 20-30 people, we should let hundreds of thousands of people die?  And you think that we should give in to fear of terrorism and let innocent people, including children and babies, face it alone without trying to help them?

"1/4th of the world is Muslim. Do you think 1/4th of the world is terrorists? Do you think it's okay to sentence people to death, sickness, and starvation because of fear of a statistically unlikely occurrence?

"It's not only morally reprehensible but also unpatriotic to give in to the terrorists and say, Okay, you scared us, we give up, we won't help. France is still accepting refugees even after their attacks, because they claim it is their humanitarian duty. We should let compassion lead us, not fear."

(This is all copy-pasted from the conversation.  This is the precise argument I made.  In retrospect, I also wish I had pointed out that terrorist organizations prey on vulnerable populations; they often recruit young men by promising to look after their families.  Refusing to allow in refugees leaves them in vulnerable positions where they can be radicalized.)

Anyway, Racist Aunt, overwhelmed, no doubt, by such SAT words as "humanitarian," replied by pointing out that the House overwhelmingly approved a bill to suspend the program that allows Syrian and Iraqi refugees into U.S.   (Not entirely accurate; the bill limits but does not suspend the program.)
I replied that I think that makes the House a bunch of cowards, then, and proves nothing, other than we value fear more than we value justice.

Now Racist Aunt got serious.  

I'm going to copy-paste her Very Serious™ explanation to me, typos and all.

 "Okay, look, it is not about racism or fear and that we should have empathy. It's about terrorism and it's real. So common sense tells us to hold our horses. Let's not go at this blindly. How many times do the terrorist have to prove to us there goals. i don't know about you, but they don't have to tell me twice. Am I scared, no, I just enjoy my freedom as is, thank you. I can go on and on and on....i am sure we will find a solution. on a final note, I didn't notice any of the muslim countries standing united with France or being upset by the killings in France. I'm just saying...."

...well, first of all, Racist Aunt™, saying it's "not about fear" but it's "about terrorism" is contradictory.  Because terrorism (which takes its root from "terror") is all about using fear and intimidation to further political or religious viewpoints.

But that's pedantic.  I'd rather talk facts.  And here are the facts.  

The chances of you being attacked by a terrorist are roughly 1 in 20 million. The chances of you drowning in a bathtub are 1 in 800,000. The chances of you dying in a car accident are 1 in 19,000. Should we also ban the import of bathtubs and cars because there's a small chance of danger?

Also, Muslim countries that stand by France include Iran, Iraq, Qutar, Jordan, and several states in the Arab league. France traditionally has excellent alliances with the Middle East. 

Educate yourself, Racist Aunt™.

...after I dropped several links to statistics, including the one above, and ended with "educate yourself," she did not respond.  I assume she went to go educate herself.

Go educate yourself is the new go fuck yourself.

Although this whole interaction happened two and a half years ago, it's still relevant today since we're becoming increasingly aware of immigrants being detained and families separated.
By the way, separating children from their parents is a human rights violation, as defined by the Geneva Convention.  And the UN has asked our country, America, to stop committing war crimes.


You should be.

Never fear.  You can help.  RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. This non-profit provides  advocacy and fair legal representation for immigrants, and directly funds bonds to allow parents to reclaim their detained children.  They also work to get these children and parents the psychological care they will need after this experience.

They started a Facebook donation page with the initial goal set to $1500, which is the minimum amount of a bond to get a parent out of a detention center so that they can be reunited with their child.  Currently, over a half-million people have donated and raised close to $20 million dollars.

Learn more here.

This is the power of people doing something.  Like France, we have identified an injustice and we can buckle in and work together to solve it.

As Mr. Rogers said, look for the helpers.  We are the helpers.  We can help.

Fear is useless.  Fear is temporary.  Glory is forever.  Let's be on the right side of history this time.  Let's scatter kindness and compassion like glitter, and let's hope it sticks.

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