That Time We Thought Refugees Were Our Only Problem

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I began to create the blog entry below on November 15. 2015. I never published it, probably because I could not think of how to close it. I had reached no conclusion.  This morning, after reading an article posted by a friend whom I loved very much which stated that liberals do not love or hug their children as much as conservatives and that liberals do not have good intentions - I happened to come upon this unfinished entry again.

I struggle to find common ground. This morning, I watched Donald Trump give his speech at CPAC while I had my morning coffee and then I clicked on that article my friend posted, knowing he is a conservative Christian, and thinking that, because he taught me the compassion of Jesus, that I would find common ground there. I was optimistic. I may not be a Christian now, but I believe in compassion. I believe Jesus taught equality and love and the golden rule. So it was a surprise, what I read. It really hurt to be described in such an incorrect, demeaning way. I'm sure conservative Christians know what I am talking about because I was a Christian for 17 years or so.

I don't know how to respond to this except to say that labeling liberals as people who don't take care of their children or conservatives as racists isn't going to get us to come together as a country. It's not going to help me understand where a conservative is coming from, especially when I am trying by reading what they post on social media.

I'm trying to find the balance between speaking up for the values that I believe make life worth living for all people and respecting those who disagree with me. It feels impossible some days, with no conclusion in sight, to press on.

November, 2015
Yesterday I posted on Facebook some articles that were meant to remind people about and support the necessity for compassion toward refugees of war torn countries, regardless of the fact that there is the possibility of evil lurking among a small percentage of the people we are trying to help. The response to my posts was huge, and not in the way that warms my heart. I have friends who disagree with me and they were pretty angry about it. One friend, in particular was offended that I likened the fact that the majority of Americans did not want to take in Jewish refugees as they fled anti-Semitism just before WWII. That was different, he says. Jews were not terrorists. 

So much to say on that. So many, many angles to argue. But I didn't. I said almost nothing. Not because I'm weak. Not because I thought he made a valid point. (I didn't). Not because I'm so wonderfully polite. (I'm often not). I didn't argue with him or my other friend, because it was futile.  I felt pretty sad yesterday, less because of what happened in Paris, and more so because I could see this divide between myself and a significant group of people I call Friends. And that, to me, looks like a successful outcome for terrorists. Divide and conquer. 

Of course it has been suggested to me that I Un-Friend people who so vehemently express their opposing opinions on my feed. I'm not going to lie and say I didn't consider it. Sometimes I think "What's the use? You obviously think I'm stupid or naive. It doesn't look like you respect me." Who needs that opposition in their life? 

This issue of accepting or not accepting Syrian refugees into the US reminds me of a few things that I have experienced similar to this in the past, albeit on a smaller, simpler scale. 

Several years ago, when a hurricane was about to rip through our township in NJ, we were living next door to a house that looked like it was literally about to fall apart. In that house was a family that I disliked. The grandfather was a stereotypical drunk who stunk and yelled and, frankly, seemed slightly dangerous. The granddaughter, whom we had spoke to only a couple of times, seemed "not all there". She had two boys, aged 10 and 8 who were definite products of this strange environment. The youngest boy was a pathological liar and a thief. I had no proof of what went on in that house, but I was sure it wasn't good. I didn't trust any of these people, didn't want my kids near them. As the hurricane got closer, here's what I thought: Are they going to be OK? What if the house rips apart? What if they need to be rescued? Would I be OK with me or my husband risking our lives for them? What if they come knock on our door?

Yeah, I thought of my family first. And then I uncomfortably realized I had no choice but to help that family through that, or any other life threatening crisis if they needed me.  We would rush to their house and dig them out in the middle of a hurricane. We would take them in. We would feed them. Because they are human beings. Yes, I would never leave the grandfather alone with one of my kids. Yep, I'd keep an eye on everyone. Yep, I'd be uneasy. I'd worry. But I'd do it because I couldn't NOT do it and live with myself later.

My other story takes place in May 1995, just after the Federal Building bombing in OKC. I am not sure where I was, but I remember watching on TV as Garth Brooks performed "The Change" at a children's benefit concert in OKC. I am not a country music fan and had never heard the song until that moment. It was an angle I hadn't really thought about. Would this horrific event that killed people I knew, in my home, the place where I grew up, change me? Would I go the route of zero tolerance? Would it all be so black and white? How did I feel about terrorism now? I was thinking it through and I didn't know the answer.

I thought of that song again yesterday while reading posts on Facebook about the refugees, the problems we face because of Paris, the changing attitudes, the fear that seemed to wrap around everyone, manifesting itself as anger, sometimes hatred. I couldn't remember the words, so I looked it up. 

"One hand reaches out 

And pulls a lost soul from harm

While a thousand more go unspoken for

And they say, 

"What good have you done by saving just this one"

It's like whispering a prayer 

In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying, 

"You'll never change things

And no matter what you do 

It's still the same thing"

But it's not the world that I am changing

I do this so, this world will know

That it will not change me

This heart still believes

That love and mercy still exist

While all the hatreds rage

And so many say

"That love is all but pointless,

In madness such as this

"It's like trying to stop a fire 

With the moisture from a kiss"

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