Tag Archives: Syrian refugees

Still Opposing Refugees the Right to Safety and Peace? Better Check Yourself…

…because up close and personal, THIS is the reality, this is the face, (one of many) of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.   Still oppose refugees right to cross borders ?  If you can ,. you are cold , hard and shiny plastic ,for sure. And I hope your society, and your country never burns under your feet.  What a way to come into the world, right?  This infant boy and his twin brother , along with their mother braved a 3o hour, arduous journey, some of it in the pitch black of night, for a safe shore.  Fifteen rubber boats (unbelievably) and one made of wood were rescued in the Mediterranean.  Thousands were rescued.

Compassion is in play here, thankfully, but the naysayers, the bigots and the ill-informed cannot be far behind. The harsh truth is that the 30 hour  journey, treacherous as it was, will not be the end of a life full of instability, fear, and an intense longing for a land and a home that, for all intents and purposes no longer exists.  The refugee escapes one set of unbearable circumstances for another.  But , at the very least, the ground is no longer burning under their feet.

The face of this tiny infant , a mere 5 days old, and others like him will haunt me.


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Reducing the Issue of Syrian Refugees: Thank You ,But Your Memes Don’t Cut It

I hate a cynical outlook, particularly my own.   Right now the world is a scary place.   The plight of Syria refugees is front and center, where I believe it should be, but the rhetoric I am hearing is annoying at best, astounding at worst.   What I have learned through all of this is that talk is rather cheap.


On days when I am likely to bemoan the vapid and alienating aspects of social media, in  particular  ,but not limited to, FB (which I have attempted to quit more than once) I am reminded by  my friend Ruslana, a thinking and feeling person, wife, mother, linguist and a Ukrainian who truly cares, to remind me that  some revolutions like the one in her country,  were started with the use of FB. And she is right. Ruslana says it like it is and I appreciate that.   Still, I have a difficult time separating the wheat from the chaff on FB.   Let me explain.

For those who do not want the refugees to come into the United States, I BELIEVE you. I don’t agree with you, not at all, but I believe you. Their often xenophobic, racist and reactionary rants  sad and sickening  as they are , are  quite common on this side of the pond. This rhetoric,  though, is not exclusive to Americans.   I can hardly deal with this viewpoint, but I recognize and respect that   those who express it have the right.

Now, those who I relate to most—liberals, because, I AM one, I have  more trouble believing you feel what they say they do. It is because of the way they express their outrage.   When does the rhetoric of support become more than just—well, rhetoric?   My FB news feed is literally inundated with seemingly  clever (please don’t force me to describe them—you’ve seen them—different takes on the “first” refugee family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Pilgrims and Indians, the Holocaust—you get it) memes which I find particularly offensive because they are so reductive.   That the horrible, horrible crisis in Syria and the lives’ of its people, are even ideologically reduced to a meme on FB offends my sense of decency as well as my sense of reality.  I imagine Syrian refugees would be offended, too,   if they had time to think about it,but they don’t because they are busy trying to save their own lives. But of course, everyone to his own.

I have quite intentionally decided, quietly, not to participate.  

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Do these memes make a difference? I don’t think for one minute that they do. So then why post them?   I suppose it  makes the one posting  feel good in some abstract way, a pseudo-activist sort of a syndrome might be going on here— but it does nothing for the situation at hand.  If it does, please tell me how, because it would honestly make me feel better.

My other objection becomes the fact that these posts are often mistaken by those posting them   for  some sort of social justice action (see , above “pseudo activist syndrome”), but really , NO: far from it.  Who are they trying to convince with the  memes? The friends who already share their views? Not necessary. The people who disagree with you? Not possible.


Exhibit B

Exhibit B

A lively discussion was taking place on the FB wall of one of my friends. A very enthusiastic and righteous fellow proclaimed “I’d house refugees!” Excuse me while I open my eyes in incredulity!  Really? REALLY? Would you really? Because, dude,  no one is stopping you.   Because  in REALITY, that is what is  needed. But there is where it stops, for most.  Right on that FB wall.  Here is the sad truth: there exists  a terrible, terrible need in every single town and city  in this great country of ours.  Here is a litmus test of your true intention:

Ask yourself:

  • Are you walking over the homeless on the way to purchase your Starbuck’s?
  • Are you hiring Mexican workers at slave wages for your restaurant?
  •   Did you offer to house and of the horrifically suffering population of New Orleans during the Katrina disaster? (many of which still have not been able to return home.)
  • and on and on and on.

PERSPECTIVE: Before you post that meme, maybe initiate a REAL conversation of what is possible and doable on your page and get some real action going.  More than intentions are needed.

I have met so many Syrian refugees in refugee camps in Sicily and can say, with all honesty that they have been some of the kindest people I have ever had the opportunity to engage with,  even in their dire circumstances far from home their grace impressed me—something I will never forget.

They deserve more than our memes, more than our empty rhetoric.   Talk is cheap and ubiquitous. There is so much we can’t do. Let’s put our energies into something we can.

And to quote my friend Eric, a man who has done much to alleviate the suffering of Africans in their own countries :  “If you can’t point out Syria on a map, maybe you should stay out of the discussion.”


Syria on a map

Here are some organizations that you can get involved with or donate to:








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How desperate do you have to be? A meditation on compassion

More refugees will be coming. They are coming.

I wish I knew the names of even a few of them.   I wish I knew some characteristics. Their names.  The names of their parents.   I wish I did not have to lump them all into that unfortunate term “refugees”, but there you have it.   With the continuing unrest in North Africa and the increasingly unstable and violent situation in Syria (with possible impending US air strikes) the desperation of so many in the contact zone rises exponentially.


Why do they leave?  How do they get where they are going? What do they bring?  Who do they leave behind?  Will they ever be able to return? What what the price they had to pay to leave?
But most importantly, will they survive the journey?
Witness this:  Just a few days ago in Siracusa , Sicily two boats with  carrying over 300 people between them were rescued.  Amongst all of those nameless, faceless people, on one of those small boats, on that most dangerous of voyages a new life came into the world.  A four-day-old baby girl, born at sea,  was found , miraculously doing very well—with part of her umbilical cord still attached.
For those who oppose immigration, make rash judgements about the lives’ of people who are just like us but who have found themselves in untenable situations, or who verbally bash and politically oppose their existence. think for a moment what kind of situation would make a heavily pregnant woman, step into a dinghy  to sail night and day , exposed to the heat of the sun by day, and the dark unknown at night?  These trips come with many promises, but, predictably with no guarantees.   Desire , hope, fear and desperation are prime motivators.  Those who oppose them their right to a life in relative safety lack what seems to be a rare commodity these days: compassion or at least the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
I have always found the belief in something, in theory at least, to be easy.   We can be anti this or pro that, but until something touches us personally, until we become the victim, the bullied,  the afflicted, the denied, the scorned, the hated and despised we don’t really know, do we?
So here is a personal appeal to those of you who think that Italy has too many immigrants, too many refugees, to those of you who have marched against them, denied them jobs, refused them service, beat them in the streets, or smiled benevolently to them within the confines of your social service agency but then pretended you didn’t know them when you passed them on the street: STOP. Just STOP.  Dig deep and find your compassion.  It could be you or me someday. And with the way the world is going, it probably will be.
Just imagine that baby girl being born at sea.  How fearful her mother must have been. The potential for disaster.  Then imagine: What kind of life will she have?   Now ask yourself:  how desperate do you have to be?
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