Friday, October 30, 2015

Who wins when refugees are given the cold shoulder?

Another reason I love baseball is that the holidays are truly downtime for fans. There are no games and aside from any trade news, there’s nothing to follow. As I’ve watched the presidential candidates traipse around Iowa and New Hampshire I can’t help but think that all except one may regret how they’ve used this time in their lives.

I also suspect that these candidates may regret the hard line they’ve taken on the Syrian refugees. While I certainly understand — and agree — that we need to carefully monitor who comes into our country, I think that some who have adopted a knee-jerk, anti-refugee stance have forgotten not only why the United States is here, but what we continue to fight around the world.

Although most Americans started paying attention to the Syrian refugee crisis sometime this summer, the truth is that a steady stream of Syrians have been fleeing their homeland since 2011 — more than 4 million have registered as refugees. Most are in Turkey and Lebanon and all are fleeing the horrors of a multi-sided civil war with the Assad regime, rebel fighters and Islamic extremists shredding the country to pieces. In January the UN estimated that 220,000 Syrians had died in the war.

As I waded through my own mixed feelings watching news coverage of Syrians flooding into Europe, I thought of my family members who arrived in this area as refugees. They were fortunate to survive the long and dangerous journey from their homeland where they escaped after suffering religious persecution. Although their arrival was 395 years ago, some things about coming to America have changed — and some things never should. Back then, settlers arrived on our shores without having made any arrangements with the locals. They brought diseases (which eventually killed the locals) and a desire to take the land to make their own settlement. Those refugees — or pilgrims — as we’ve kindly named them — had nothing in common with the locals and saw them as inferior.

While it would be a mistake to generalize what today’s refugees are thinking or planning for the future, it’s clear that the vast majority of them are just running for their lives. Even Ben Carson, who recently spent time at a refugee camp, seemed surprised to note that the refugees he spoke with simply wanted to go home. I am certain that some probably hate America and some of them probably wish us harm, but making that wild assumption — and then using it as a reason to ban all refugees — is the wrong approach. I would further argue that by allowing these “what ifs” to shape our foreign policy and our standing as a world power, we’re playing right into the hands of the terrorists. After all, if their purpose is to terrorize us into changing our way of life, then by turning our backs on others in need after an act of terror, we are allowing the terrorists to lead us — and that would be something we would all regret.

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