Thursday, January 14, 2016
Here are two extremes of the debate: some people argue that bringing in Syrian refugees is dangerous and sound as if they couldn’t care less if the refugees would die and rot, while others argue that even a human fetus has a right to life. According to one website, “an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011... According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million have fled to Syria's immediate neighbors: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq” .
Now, what is the American spirit? You can exhaust all sorts of definitions from historical, religious, cultural, political or educational aspects, but, in general, the international population would agree, “When the chips are down, when the going gets tough, when the weak need a helping hand, when someone is getting bullied, Americans step up” . In reality, according to CNN , more than half of this nation's governors say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. People on radio shows condemn the President as being “un-American.” So, what happened to the “American spirit”? We allow fear to get the better of us, the fear of terrorist attacks -- so much so that certain states will not even take orphans under the age of five .
I do not intend to participate in the heated debate on whether or not to take in the refugees, or how many to take, or what religious group should be preferred, but to offer an alternative: What if we put our heads together to figure out a way for all the refugees to get a chance to live, and to live in dignity? A way to provide them a temporary safe place called “home”? A way to give them a chance to use their talents and skills to contribute to the world and fulfill their life purposes? A way to turn the threats around and create a win-win situation?
I have been involved in peer mediation. One important step towards resolving any issues is to have both parties listen to each other. Let’s try to understand each other’s point of view, shall we?
Good people of the United States, here are our concerns:
Terrorism: There might be terrorists among the refugees, the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, who sneak up on a flock.
Social welfare: The little ones and the pregnant will consume more food, and the old and the sick will further weigh us down.
Disease control: The sick and the weak might bring in rare or unknown diseases.
Financial management: For crying out loud, our nation is already in debt!
And the list goes on.
The poor Syrian refugees are literally crying for dear life. Let’s hear them:
Necessity: We are less fortunate, helpless souls longing for merely basic human needs: simply some food and water to sustain our lives, a bed even just big enough to huddle with our family members to rest at night, a roof and walls to ward off rain and wild animals.
Terrorism? Based on The UNHCR’s registration data, over half of us are women, and more than half of our men are either younger than 18 or older than 60, and many young men in Syria don’t want to fight . In any event of war, it is always the innocent women and children who suffer the most. Why is it that the innocent should bear the consequences for a war that they did not declare? You see, we are victimized at least three times during this crazy refugee movement: our loved ones got killed, we lost our homes and jobs and live in poverty, and we have no future outlook because our presumed friends prevaricate and try to avoid us. Our chances of survival are up to the mercy of other kind homo sapiens. We are so vulnerable that we cannot even afford to think if we would be attacked by insane xenophobes in a foreign country! Even culture shock sounds too luxurious to scare us. Please put yourselves in our shoes. Would you like to leave your sweet homes by force?
Financial burden: Do you think that we Syrian refugees will be absolutely incapable of contributing to the growth of the U.S. or the rest of the world? Would you please sit on it for just a little while?
Now that we’ve heard both sides, let’s brainstorm and explore possibilities. I like to shrink problems to a smaller scale. Consider this: Would I open my house to accommodate all the homeless in town just because I have a big mansion on a huge tract of land? Suppose my spouse already agreed to take them in, so I have to support his decision. I am scared because I don’t know them. Would they rob or steal? Am I responsible to take care of them if they get sick? Would they spread germs and viruses in my household? Should I provide their children with educational opportunities? How do I manage to bring in extra income with so many mouths to feed and provide extra clothing to keep them warm? All these concerns are legitimate. It doesn’t mean that if I inherited a huge parcel of land and a mansion, I am supposed to be able to support anybody other than my own family. But it’s such a blessing to have land and a mansion, isn’t it? Suppose I lay out a tentative 5-year plan as such: I give the homeless tools and materials, and have the young and strong build their own lodging on my land, like the Amish do, loan them money to buy seeds to grow crops and livestock to raise, let the educated train their own children and the uneducated….... Do you see what I am getting at?
Let’s go back to the Syrian refugee situation.
Housing: I learned about Habitat of Humanity because of President Jimmy Carter’s involvement. Did you know that in fiscal year 2015, Habitat served nearly 1.8 million people through home construction, incremental construction, rehabilitation, repairs or increased access to improved shelter through their products and services ? If we are so concerned about young Syrian males, we can use their muscles and energy for building homes for their own communities with the help of Habitat.
Food: Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption. That comes at an annual cost of more than $100 billion . Can we spare some food to feed those disadvantaged friends?
Reciprocal Favors: As it stands now, we are importing a great deal of general merchandise and commodities from other countries. Some large corporations recruit their employees by outsourcing or subcontracting. Couldn’t we provide these jobs to refugees? We’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” One benefit, in my humble opinion, is that refugees will be proud of themselves if they can work and earn their own living rather than being provided handouts; additionally, we are not relying on tax revenues or donations to support them. Their productivity will only stimulate the U.S. economy.
A land called “home”: The vast land of Planet Earth is big enough to let anybody live, if they so wish. It sounds absurd that anyone should die because there’s a shortage of land. If we need time to get to know each other – wouldn’t it be reasonable that refugees are scared of the people of the host country, too? – we could temporarily provide them a “village” in which they stay and feel secure, as the Amish have been doing. They can take the time to learn the language and ease into the U.S. or other cultures of the host countries, during which time, there will be interactions between them and the outside world.
I am by no means describing a utopia for the refugees; nor am I saying there will not be unforeseen challenges, no matter how perfect a plan appears; but ponder this: what is the value of life? The most precious gift anybody can give is life. We cannot create any but can certainly save some. Religious people believe that God is omniscient but do not trust that the Shepherd is herding the sheep to the haven called the United States. Quite odd, isn’t it?
I am scratching my head so hard trying to help our miserable homeless friends and in the meantime to also comfort our kind and generous fellow citizens who so want to lend a helping hand but are so scared of inviting unwanted tag-alongs. It sounds to me as though there would be guaranteed no more terrorist attacks if none of the refugees entered the U.S., and if they entered, there would definitely be an increasing number of attacks. It’s so sad to think there’s no trust in another human or race or religious group. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” . The first thing we should overcome, before we can resolve any issue, is our own fear.
Do we teach our children “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”? In a similar token, if we want to be treated with kindness, we ought to show others kindness because we are teaching them how to be kind. As far as I am concerned, there is only one race, which is the human race, and one home, which is the Planet Earth. Listen to how the World Pledge goes: “I pledge allegiance to Humanity, and to the World that gives us life, one People, united in diversity, and one World, united in peace, with freedom and dignity for all" . I am throwing in my two pennies’ worth in the hope that more people will focus on the survival of the refugees and exploring possible living arrangements for them.
*I am solely responsible for my views on this controversial issue. The University of Illinois Asian American Alumni Network does not endorse or condemn my opinions. ~ Chong-Hwey Fee
Citations (accessed Nov. 21, 2015)
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Saturday, October 10, 2015