Roughly two and a half weeks ago Paris came under attack by terrorists. In the space of one night, they killed over a hundred people. And in the light of those attacks, the debate has been raging over what to do with the Syrian refugees that are fleeing their country in an attempt to get away from ISIS. Now I already talked about this two weeks ago but it’s a topic that deserves talking about again. But this time I want to delve into a more specific portion of the issue, and that’s the response here in the United States.
Now, there’s something to be said about being afraid. It’s natural. It’s completely fair. Every human being experiences fear at some point in their life. It’s one of the most instinctual emotions we have. But what’s not fair are some of the arguments being used against these refugees and the ignorance that’s been on display.
First off, let’s talk about the process the refugees have to go through to become admitted refugees of the United States. It doesn’t seem like the people who are constantly talking about this process actually understand how insanely rigorous it is. The process forces them to go through about five or six different governmental organizations that are constantly fact-checking and gathering information to determine if said person is a threat to the country. And that’s only if they’re recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (or UNHCR), which by the way ends up recommending less than one percent of the worldwide refugees who apply. All in all, the process usually takes eighteen to twenty-four months. That’s right, it can take up to two years after the process is started before a refugee gets resettled.
But you know what, don’t just take my word for it. I’ll let John Oliver lay it all out for you.
And now, despite this incredibly in-depth process that already exists, Congress voted for even more strict regulations requiring the FBI director to sign off on each and every refugee. Some prominent politicians have claimed that there’s no way to screen people or that there’s very little that goes into the vetting process. This is plainly not true, which you can find out if you do any amount of research into the matter. Frankly, it’s rather disturbing that the people in charge of this country’s future can be so ignorant.
But that’s not the only thing I want to talk about today. There are a couple other arguments floating around that I want to mention.
The first of these arguments is something that goes like this: “why should we take care of a bunch of refugees when there’s so many homeless people/veterans living in poverty in our country?” To begin with, the assertion that we as a country can only spend money on one issue at a time is absolutely ludicrous, especially when we spend something like seven hundred billion dollars on the Pentagon alone. Seven hundred billion. You’re going to tell me that we don’t have room in our budget to take care of refugees and the homeless?
But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that these very same people refused to do anything about the issue when it was tackled by the government before. And you know why?
Because they didn’t want to raise taxes.
Because they believed that homeless people deserved to be homeless, that if they just “got a job” and worked harder they would live better lives.
And now they trot them out as some pathetic excuse to hide their xenophobia, because they don’t want to acknowledge their bias against Muslims. “Hey look at me,” they seem to say. “I’m being socially conscious by acknowledging other issues!” No you’re not. You’re just masking your own ignorant hypocrisy. I don’t normally take such a hard stance on these subjects, but when people use the human beings they refused to help earlier as an excuse to not help another group of human beings, it starts to bring my blood to a furious boil. There’s no shame in being afraid, but there’s plenty of shame in demonizing your fellow people.
But I don’t think it’s quite as absurd as comparing them to poisoned food.
Oh yeah, you heard me right. People are comparing the refugees to bags or sacks of poisoned food. “If I give you a sack of grapes,” they say, “and tell you that some of them are poisoned, what would you do with the sack?” The implication is of course that you would throw the sack away and not even risk it. This analogy can come in different forms (in the John Oliver video, he shows a clip of Mike Huckabee using the comparison, but with a bag of peanuts), but the end argument is the same: we shouldn’t risk taking in refugees because there might be a few terrorists among them.
First off, people are not grapes. They are not peanuts. I shouldn’t even have to say that, but there it is. You don’t eat people (unless you’re a cannibal of course, in which case eww…just eww man…).
Secondly, of course you would throw out the damn bag of grapes if some are bad. They’re grapes. They’re expendable. But we’re not talking about grapes. We’re talking about people. People with lives, families, dreams and aspirations. They want to live. Grapes don’t have dreams. Grapes don’t even think. They’re grapes for crying out loud.
My point is that we’re letting fear get the best of us (a point I made two weeks ago as well). We need to listen to our hearts on this one. There are people out there who need our help. They’re living in a nightmarish place right now, a place they’re trying desperately to escape. And do we really think that a terrorist is going to spend two years trying to get into the U.S. through the refugee process when getting a Visa is far easier?
So many of us live our lives in luxury, not having the remotest idea of what true strife is like. Sure, our car breaks down or our budget might be a little tight one month, but we don’t all live in constant fear for our lives. We aren’t forced to uproot our entire home and carry it on our backs, just for a slim chance at getting a better life.
In the end, it’s not how much power we have that matters, but how we use it. Why don’t we use a little bit of it to help our fellow humans find a better way to live?
Well that’s all I have for you this time. Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.