5-11: Immigration Stifled by Xenophobia

The Huffington Post reports these reasons that “more than 60 million people–half of them children–have become refugees. Noted are:

  • war
  • human rights violations
  • underdevelopment
  • climate change
  • natural disasters

These are real numbers of real people. The problem does not go away if we stick our heads in the sand and try to ignore the suffering of others. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has posed several strategies to combat rampant apathy for this cause among the affluent countries in the world.

  1. We need to begin by recognizing our common humanity.
  2. Far from being a threat, refugees and migrants contribute to the growth and development of host countries as well as their countries of origin.
  3. Political and community leaders have a responsibility to speak out against discrimination and intolerance, and to counter those who seek to win votes through fearmongering and divisiveness.
  4. We have to give greater attention to addressing the drivers of forced displacement.
  5. We need to strengthen the international systems that manage large movements of people so that they uphold human rights norms and provide the necessary protections.

Although these seem to be self-evident truths regarding how all people should treat each other, it seems the cliché “out of sight, out of mind” is a more accurate description of how we deal with–or don’t deal with–this crisis. We would rather be the world’s cop than the world’s care giver. Our soldiers are promoting freedom and American-style democracy somewhere “over there.” Immigrants by definition would be “here.”

American soldiers have seen for themselves the uninhabitable, bombed out, war torn circumstances that crumble the lives of innocent people. There is no home for them. They have nothing. Soldiers know this and, unfortunately, they also know that in many cases they have participated in creating the carnage.

In Vietnam it was impossible to determine if a Vietnamese person in civvies was VC, VC sympathizer, or just a subsistence farmer who wished the shooting and bombing would stop. It has to be the same for today’s warriors

I abhor the term “collateral damage” because it implies, in Machiavellian terms, that the end justifies the means, i.e., if one known enemy combatant is killed in a bombing raid that also takes the lives of five innocents, well, that’s too bad. Sorry about that. Let’s focus on the brilliant assassination from the air. No U.S. assets lost.

Another word I hate: assets. When our soldiers are referred to as assets, they morph from people to things, and things are more palatable to lose than people. It has come to this in the world of perpetual war, enemies are demons of some sort, friendly fighters are widgets.

Since we have dehumanized soldiers on both sides of our conflicts, the refugees have no chance at stirring our human emotions. We need to change that. We need to return to the days when the Statue of Liberty was a beacon of hope and Ellis Island was the gateway to a new start in life. We were great then, before super powerdom. We were great then, when we lovingly, eagerly invited the downtrodden to dwell among us. We can be great again.

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