Today is November 21

November 13 was a day that forever will be burned into our minds — 130 people died in France after eight coordinated attacks that ISIS claimed credit to, 43 citizens of Beirut died in a brutal terrorist attack and several thousands of people are still missing or have lost their homes from deadly earthquakes in Mexico and Japan.

But today is November 21. The sudden spike of Facebook profile changes into the colors of the French flag have long subsided, the #prayforparis photos on Instagram and Twitter were replaced with photos of Kylie Jenner’s latest bikini, and the discussion and debate that the few articles and posts about the bombings in Beirut stirred up have also died down.

Today is November 21, and conversation has shifted to the refugee crisis, where the tragedies in France have been turned into a fiery political debate while those in Lebanon have, for the most part, just become a statistics, more evidence for the politically conservative to say, “The Middle East is dangerous; Muslims are dangerous.”

Today is November 21, and the public is quiet, the same public that was able to bring so much attention and provide so much support to those suffering around the world, the same public who was able to criticize our media for focusing only on the tragedies of a developed nation and overlook those in the Middle East, the same public who came together in a time of need as humans, nothing more, nothing less.

Today is November 21, and I want to continue the conversation about this humanitarian crisis. Too often, events such as those in Paris have been used to collectively condemn an entire group of people, and in this case, it’s a group of men, women, widows and children fleeing from a civil war, from daily atrocities such as these. Take what presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had to say about Syrian refugees and whether the U.S. should continue to accept them:

“If you bought a 5-pound bag of peanuts and you knew that in the 5-pound bag of peanuts there were about 10 peanuts that were deadly poisonous, would you feed them to your kids? The answer is no.”

Mr. Huckabee, your argument is inherently incorrect. Since when were humans — actual living, breathing humans who happened to be born in a different country at such a time — peanuts? When did we degrade an entire group of people to peanuts? Sure we can throw away tainted peanuts, but these are humans, and we can’t forget about the 99% of refugees who aren’t terrorists. And then there are a few media outlets, when some people tried to point out parallels from World War II with the Jewish refugees, made lists that included arguments like the ones below:

1. Jews had nowhere to go; Syrian refugees should have many places to go.

2. Opposition to Jewish refugees was “racial”; opposition to Syrian refugees is based on security concerns.

3. The Jewish refugees had communities willing and able to resettle them; the Syrian refugees may not.

  1. Indeed, Turkey alone has over 2 million refugees, and there are 29 other countries who are currently accepting more refugees than we are. But who are we to say that in such a time of need, other countries –much smaller and denser than ours –have to help our fellow humans out by themselves when we have so many resources and ways in which we can help out? Just because other countries are opening their doors does not give us the right to close ours; by doing so only labels the United States, once proclaimed the land of immigrants, as despicable and hypocritical.
  2. Perhaps I should clarify for you. Both Jewish and Syrian refugees are being targeted because of their religion, first and foremost. If not, why would Jeb Bush say that “we should focus our efforts as it relates to the refugees for the Christians that are being slaughtered” and why are mosques around the United States and worldwide being targeted? And not racial?? In that case, I would like to know why some people are attacking this Sikh man or this Latin American student for “looking like a Middle-Eastern man who’s maybe Muslim?”
  3. What the hell is this argument? They may not have communities willing and able to resettle them? Then why can’t the United States — why can’t we — provide that kind of environment then? Because a few of us are bigoted, xenophobic and heartless? That someone even wrote that last line and thought that it was a solid argument against accepting refugees is so, so sad.

Today is November 21, and we can make a difference. The House just passed a bill that would suspend the program accepting Syrian refugees until “national security agencies can verify that these refugees do not pose any threats to the nation’s security.” But France just announced that  it will take 30,000 Syrian refugees. We can, as a nation, either turn our backs on our fellow humans, or we can be just as courageous as France, who even after the attacks recognize that we need to help our universal race. We can, as a public, make that choice for our nation when we amplify our voices, just like we did on November 13.

 

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