There have been protests, and many of them. They are televised across the country, and across the world, with hundreds of thousands attending and even more watching closely. These protests are sending messages of solidarity, of unity, of hope for change, and of frustration. That's all great.
...and then what?
After your tweets dissolve back into the comfort zone of education-related content, or have diverted their attention away from the current Executive Order that our president has signed to stop accepting incoming Syrian refugees and onto the next crisis, what happens? Was it worth it? After you set your well-crafted sign with a poignant message, or a snarky play on words, onto the ground or into the trash, what happens to your message? How do you take it and do something with it?
And if I'm not tweeting about it, if I'm not attending a protest, if I'm not blogging about how wrong it is, am I complicit? Twitter seems to think so. Writers seem to think so.
I have two thoughts on this, both of which are up for discussion. I don't claim to be a political analyst, or an expert on the refugee crisis.
Build a support system
If we are truly a compassionate and welcoming country, we should see organizations and companies building a support system for these refugees. Some are, and that's a good sign.
We should see an outreach for Arabic translators who can come into schools and work with the children who are here because their parents made the decision to come to America for refuge.
We should see companies who offer education programs for incoming refugees who can get the able-bodied adults accustomed to the American workforce and find them a job to support their families.
We should see food kitchens and volunteer organizations coming to the aid of these families who are often malnourished and wounded from their escape of a terrible situation.
We should see organizations working to get the refugees Visas to begin the process of being in our country legally, setting them up with the proper paperwork and supporting their decision to join our great country.
Some might say that Starbucks agreeing to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in 75 different countries where it does business and Google helping to raise 10 million dollars to the refugee crisis is proof of progress, and it is. Matt Vaudrey shared a link to the UNHCR, an organization working to aid in the refugee relief efforts. Does the hiring spree come with anything other than a job? Does it also come with housing? Courses on learning English? And what does that huge sum of money actually do? I love that these companies are stepping up; it makes me want to help.
If we are truly wanting to live up to our values as Americans, it is our follow-up actions that will define this country; not a viral tweet, not a witty protest sign, not a chant outside of an airport, and not a celebrity with a megaphone riling up a crowd.
We need to mobilize an effort to express our humanity in a way that welcomes the people we are attempting to stand up for.
Find the reason, stop the reason
In March of 2011, pro-Democracy protest erupted in the southern city of Deraa. For the full timeline, go to the article that lays everything out. What this tells me is that, for almost six years, Syria has been in disarray. In that time, the following has happened (pulled from internationalmedicalcorps.org):
- 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Syria
- 6.3 million people are internally displaced in Syria
- 4.9 million Syrians are trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
- Over 4.8 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries
- Half of the displaced are children and youth
For the past five years, an estimated 250,000 Syrians have been killed through the conflict, now being considered a civil war.
The refugees don't want to leave their home; the have to. As a father, I would be mortified if my four year-old son sat motionless in an ambulance, covered in dirt and his own blood as rescue personnel go back into what used to be my family's home to search for more bodies, either dead or alive. I wouldn't want to leave my home, my history, my culture, but I would. I would because it would be the safest--the only--choice I had.
Why hasn't NATO gone in to stop the Assad regime from destroying Syria? Why hasn't The United States of America stepped up and formed a coalition that puts an end to the upheaval of thousands of years of culture, while also bringing an uprising of rebellion?
To me, those are the things I would like to see us fight for. Yes, let's be that country to open our arms to those seeking refuge, and let's also be the country to help create a peaceful agreement in which people aren't being forced from their homes.
In the early 1940's, my Baba and Dede (grandmother and grandfather) were in the middle of Macedonia, which found itself in a gruesome war that we are all well-aware of. Baba has told me stories of hearing the planes and bombs flying around her neighborhood, ducking for cover when the sounds got louder. Each of their families made the decision to legally immigrate to Canada because it was the safer option and gave their children the best possible chance to succeed.
From there, they (separately) found their way into America and legally became citizens. Dede's uncle took him under his wing and taught him how to be a chef in Ohio, but Baba's parents didn't. They didn't have any connections, didn't have any support, and because of that, Baba never got a high school education.
Even with legalization, following all of our nation's laws for citizenship, and having a mentor, my grandparents struggled to assimilate into the American culture. They found success through a lot of perseverance, but even that was rare.
I share this story for two reasons: First, I'm incredibly proud of my grandparents for what they had to overcome, and what my Baba still overcomes, as they have made it through life. Second, even with legalization and with some support from family, they struggled. Had they been given a Macedonian safety net here in the states, maybe things would have turned out differently. If we are going to accept this many people with open arms, we need to find a way to make them feel like they can be successful. We need to back up our protests with promises and our tweets with action.
And we need to put pressure on our legislature to help fix the crisis that is pushing away (and killing) so many Syrians. They deserve the human decency to live at home, safe and full of opportunities to prosper.
Hopeful "Human Kindness" Fishing