Monday, November 16, 2015

My Idealogical Conundrum Regarding Syrian Refugees

The sonnet by Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, is engraved on the pedestal of the  Statue of Liberty~

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This sonnet has been the beacon of light to refugees and immigrants since France gifted the USA with Lady Liberty, a symbol of welcome to those who have fled tyranny. 

Many of my loved ones ardently believe that the USA should deny vetted Syrian refugees asylum in this land of ours that was formed by immigrants fleeing legal, economical, or religious persecution in their homelands. Others that came to this continent were adventures seeking fame or fortune and thought nothing of displacing or conquering the native population. History is replete with stories of conquerors and the conquered; despots and tyrants causing people to seek refuge in other places; of war, destitution, famine, injustice or genocide. We, the people of the USA, are all decedents of immigrants. Even those identified as Native Americans traveled here from other lands. 

I've made no secret about my opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants. But I will argue vociferously for the right of those who are truly dispossessed to resettle here. I refuse to paint all Syrians will the brush of terrorism. I refuse to blame all Muslims for the actions of extremists who co-opt their religion for an excuse to commit atrocities any more than I blame all Christians for the extreme views of the religious right in our current political struggles that advocate denying equal rights to all citizens.

The very foundation of our modern society calls us to welcome those who are homeless. And for those who espouse Christianity, it is against the tenets of the faith to deny shelter to those who are homeless, clothes to those who are naked, food to those who are hungry, care to those who are sick, and compassion to those who are bereft. 

While I am filled with anger and sadness over any act of violence against innocent civilians, I cannot in good faith cast blame against the fleeing citizens of a war zone. Just as we may argue that the death penalty may be unjust if one innocent person is executed, perhaps we should consider that denying refugee status to truly innocent refugees would be wrong even if one evil doer  passed the stringent vetting process of the State Department. Perhaps, kindness and compassion would change the heart of that jihadi. 



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