There’s a lot of debate going on surrounding the issues of refugees, even though nothing has changed with regards to refugees aside from people’s opinions. The events in Paris did not make refugees any more or less likely to commit acts of terrorism. Refugees are not more or less dangerous than they were a week ago. The facts have not changed.
I think the basis for whether one’s stance is pro- or anti-refugee immigration is based on what you think it means to be American. Specifically, are American lives somehow worth far more than the lives of other people in other countries? Are Americans truly so exceptional that we are so far above other humans?
If your answer is yes, and you believe that not all human life is equally valuable then, while I strongly question the fundamentals of your ethical principles, I cannot argue with you if you are against refugee immigration.
If, however, your ethics tell you that every human life is important and valuable, that there’s nothing about Americans that makes us special and privileged just because of where we are born, then you must also take it upon yourself to support those who are most in need of our assistance.
That’s the America I hope we are: an America of compassion and fairness. An America which, knowing it was founded in no small part by refugees and grew strong due to immigration, does not turn hypocritical because now it’s “them” and not “us” who are suffering.
The amount of refugees who go on to become terrorists is infinitesimally small. For every potential terrorist that may slip through the cracks there are immeasurable numbers of people who are so desperate that they risked their lives and left everything behind — not just for hope of a better life, but for mere survival. These are people who are living daily in mortal fear. Most Americans literally cannot fathom what it must be like to wake up every day not knowing if you will still be alive at the end of it and having almost no power to keep your loved ones safe.
Whatever your ethics are, whatever your religion is, whatever your political affiliation is, ask yourself if those people deserve to die. If we are not willing to save them, then who? How can we ask others to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves?
Daesh (ISIS) does not want the refugees leaving. The entire ideological premise of their existence is that they are creating an Islamic paradise where Muslims from all over the world will go to live under Islamic law. That premise is critically undermined when the residents of the territories they occupy flee in fear. By being compassionate we are eroding the entire premise of their existence.
Both as a human and as an American, I cannot allow emotion to overcome reason. The truth is that we all do things that are, in reality, far more dangerous on a daily basis than the risk of terrorism from offering refugees asylum. Every year, over 32,000 people die in car crashes in the U.S. That’s more people — by far — than have died in terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe in the last 50 years. The overwhelming majority of those attacks were not conducted by refugees, and in fact most were not conducted by immigrants at all. Before you reflexively call for increased security such that things of this nature may be somewhat less likely to happen on American soil, remember that there are hundreds of thousands of people dying elsewhere.
If I am an American exceptionalist, it is not in a belief that American lives are worth more than the lives of others, but rather in a belief that Americans are culturally good and that we hold in the highest ideal those values which good people hold. Equality, liberty, justice, compassion — these are the values of America but they are not uniquely American values, rather they are human values. We are no more entitled to the fruits of these values than any other human. If we truly espouse these values then we must accept that trading a small amount of security to quell a great deal of human suffering is worth it, because that is what good people would do.
Carlton Hoyt (Kingston native), Boston
Until we address and remedy …
I am saddened, sickened and stunned by the senseless slaughter of innocents in Paris. We as progressive members of civil society must condemn any and all barbarous attacks on innocents.
These types of acts whether in Paris, Palestine, Pakistan or Ferguson are the result of oppression, militarism, racism and exceptionalism. The U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia are all guilty on all counts.
Relentless, daily brutality and terror are inflicted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) upon women, children and men in the militarily occupied West Bank and Gaza. Children are shot, gassed and imprisoned every day. Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza in 2014 resulted in 550 children killed, 10,000 homes demolished and thousands of adults killed or wounded.
The U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed scores of innocent men, women and children. Dozens of black men killed by police and thousands more imprisoned on bogus charges and convictions.
It is profoundly disturbing that U.S. policies and U.S. tax dollars finance activities which result in so much unnecessary suffering and loss.
Let us stop sending Israel $3 billion a year to enable the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Let us say no to more funding for U.S. drones which kill innocents in Pakistan. Let us end the injustice in the justice system.
My heart breaks for the Parisians, the Palestinians, the Pakistanis, the poor blacks and all the other innocents, of which there are many.
Unfortunately, until we address and remedy the issues of oppression, militarism, racism, and exceptionalism, these gruesome, ghastly and terrifying events will continue to occur.
Eli Kassirer, Poughkeepsie
Soon it is going to be Christmas. The Christmas story tells of how the angels told the shepherds, “Fear not, I bring you good news, for a Savior is born in Bethlehem!” These same words are being said to us today and should be our response to the terror that is being spawned all over the world. Belonging to the Christmas message are the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” These two things should spur all of us to action. This is something I can do to make a difference in this confused world. Everybody can love, everybody can hate. Let us choose love. It is the strongest power. When we love instead of hate, ISIS cannot touch us.
The aim of the enemy is to drive fear into our hearts and separate us. If we do that, they will have won the war. So let us unite, and encourage one another, especially those who have lost beloved ones, and let the true bond of love that encompasses all humankind really come to the foreground. Here everyone can help, including the children.
Everybody is created in the image of God, and God loves each one. It does not matter what faith people come from. Let the attacks in Paris be a call to return to God, and, like the prophets told us, to forsake our idols. Then God will help us.