I wanted to be high minded and write something about “the refugee crisis” as I’ve heard it called. I wanted to be high minded and not cast aspersions upon anyone. I have been trying for a week, and I can no longer pretend that I can even try to write about the events of the past week with any equanimity.
The truth is, I’m mad as hell.
Of course I’m angry at the people who went on a rampage in Paris last week. bombing and shooting the City of Light as if concertgoers were real military targets; as if a German-French football game was a legitimate target. The death and horror in Paris does have one, if not redeeming perhaps at least uplifting and hopeful, result: rather than surrender to fear, xenophobia, and what the French are quite right to call Fascism, the French leave their national doors open to refugees from Syria. The French have demonstrated not only a firm resolve to go after those who attacked them; they have also demonstrated a firm resolve to hold dear their national ideals of freedom, equality, and brotherhood.
I’m also angry, however, that Beirut was attacked by suicide bombers the day before. Muslims killed Muslims, indiscriminately. I should add that I’m also angry at Facebook, so quick to offer an app to people in France who could let loved ones know they were safe while no such thoughtfulness was extended to Beirut’s victims. I’m angry that there wasn’t a word of horror from anyone about the ongoing terrorist campaign waged by ISIS against Shi’a Muslims, Sunni Muslims deemed not rigorous enough in their “faith”, and other minority religions and ethnic groups of the region. ISIS has beheaded Muslim POW’s and uploaded the videos to the internet but no one says a word. We in the US watch what happens in Paris and we lose our collective minds.
I’m angry that no one is talking about the wave upon wave of rage coming from the Muslim world as being the responsibility of Western nations. We belittle their religion which we don’t understand. We call them savages, forgetting that while most people in Europe were living in dirty villages, unable to read, write, participate in political activities, and bound to a Catholic Church that had become this weird, fearsome conglomeration of superstitions, the Muslim world was filled with Universities and academies; that women were given full legal and political equality with men, something they wouldn’t achieve in the United States until the 20th century; that despite various wars and disputes across the Levant, the pledge to keep the pilgrim road from Byzantium to Jerusalem open and safe was never breached. I’m angry that we do not and will not see the photo here as part of an endless cycle of violence in which the United States has paid an integral part. I’m angry that people are still parroting George W. Bush’s line about people from the Muslim world hating our freedoms. The truth is far more simple: They hate us because we keep killing them for no reason whatsoever.
I’m angry that no one in the United States is willing to stand up and say that perhaps, just perhaps, much of the violence perpetrated by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and Al Mourabitoun (the latter two claiming responsibility for the hostage taking in Mali today) might well be the result of desperate people who feel they have no voice, no choice, and no hope. We in the US see scenes such as this photo of the Israelis attacking Gaza and no one demands we halt immigration of Israelis; we certainly don’t hear people carrying on that we need to monitor Jews or close synagogues. Obviously that would be absurd. Yet there seems to be no end of ideas about keeping out Muslims who wish to enter while harassing and otherwise making life hell for Muslims who already live here. Isn’t it bad enough we treat African-Americans like criminals? Isn’t it bad enough we treat women like children? Isn’t it bad enough we have a horrible history of treating people from other races, religions, and countries not northern European as if they were a threat to us? We promised ourselves we were going to be better than who we have been.
Apparently, however, being better is just too hard. Apparently being brave is just a little too much to ask a people who weren’t attacked last Friday. Apparently those strange people from a strange place who have strange names and a (not so) strange religion are just too much for us too handle. Rather than welcome people with open arms, people who wish only to come someplace safe, someplace where they can live their lives as fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, employers and employees, we refuse to see them as human at all. It’s all just a little to easy to be afraid. We who have so much are insisting that those who have nothing cannot share our bounty because they are different.
I’m angry and ashamed at people in my country. Right now, I’m quite sure poll numbers are saying that we as a people support refusing entry to people fleeing from war in Syria – a war that began not only because we destabilized the whole region by invading Iraq and ending the Ba’ath regime in Iraq; we also encouraged the people of Syria to rise up against the Assad regime during the Arab spring, never once believing we should have to spend a dollar to help them or risk any American lives to do the very thing we kept telling them to do. We encourage the destruction of their country, of their homes, the killing of their families, and then we turn our backs on them when all they want is a place to find rest and peace and security: the very things we take for granted we refuse to open to people whose crime is being different from us.
You bet I’m angry. I’m mad as hell. The loudest voices are the most unhinged. The most fearful voices mask their fear by pretending to be strong. That, at least, has humor to save us from completely losing our minds as we listen to idiots and Fascists and the insane demand we follow them. I’m so angry most days I can’t even think. I have to walk away because we are flooded with messages of hatred.
The Pope is right. Christmas this year is a joke. We’re supposed to celebrate the coming of the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Savior of the world. What we’re really doing, however, is cowering in our oversized homes with our overpriced electronic gadgets and hoping that if we spend enough money on crap we don’t need, and sit around and say “Merry Christmas” the wolf at the door, a wolf called history, can be kept out a little longer.
I’m angry, I’m tired, I’m ashamed, and most of all I’m sad. I’m sad that in my lifetime we’ve gone from conquering the stars to being afraid that a bunch of broke and broken people will conquer us. We are a joke. A sad, frightening, cowardly child of a people.