There is an issue that is currently raging in political debates and around dinner tables all throughout the US. Indeed — even abroad the discussions and opinions on this matter are as divisive as they are numerous. This issue has now become the hot topic, and like most political hot topics, I believe it is being overshadowed by ego and party loyalty.
The issue, of course, is whether the United States should accept the wave of Syrian refugees seeking asylum from their war-torn country. The arguments continue into more specific positions like how many refugees to allow into the country and what to do with them once they’re here. Ideas range from naive to disgusting, from blind idealism to unabashed racism. Harsh epithets are hurdled back and forth, each side claiming the other to be at best, mistaken, and at worst, monstrous.
This is without a doubt an extremely important issue. This is why it has swept the nation with such force. Everyone understands that this needs to be dealt with carefully. On the one hand, stands the moral character of the United States which has enshrined on the pedestal of Lady Liberty: “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.” And on the other hand stands the security of the citizens living within her borders.
With the nightmare that terrorized Paris still fresh on our minds, with the shouts of “Death to America” still echoing in our hearts, how can we put ourselves at risk of disaster by allowing refugees into our country? Are we so ignorant as to believe that there are not Jihadist organizations plotting an infiltration and subsequent destruction of the United States?
Yet we have watched as Syria has torn itself apart. We have watched the death toll rise by the thousands. We stood horrified at the pictures of bodies — many of them children — strewn threw the blood-soaked streets. Are we to send these people seeking our help, grasping their young in their hands, back to almost certain annihilation? Are we to refuse entrance to orphans and widows who have known only death and whose only crime is that they were born in Damascus and not New York? Are we to abandon the principles that founded America out of fear and cowardice?
I do not claim to have an answer to these challenges; however this explosive issue cannot be hijacked by political pundits or presidential candidates who would stand on the backs of refugees if it would help advance their careers. This cannot become a party war with each side hiding behind their elephant or donkey, entrenched in their opinions. This cannot become a political punch-line to earn rounds of applause. This issue is too important. There are lives at stake — both American and Syrian.
This issue must be critically examined. We must painstakingly look at this issue from every angle, leaving no stone unturned.
This politicization of important issues — of people’s lives — has already occurred far too many times. Gay marriage rights, abortion, gun control, climate change, all these issues have been left for politicians to purchase votes and secure reelection. They have been used to distance one American from the other. The issues being used as pawns in the political chess match have often left them unresolved and the people they affect unheard.
We cannot afford to remain entrenched in our opinions and biases. We must confront the issue of Syrian refugees head on. Facts must be our guides, not witty or snide remarks nor blatant and general condemnations. Things get messier and more complex when you examine them closely. This issue is no different. We need to stop viewing this problem through our red or blue goggles and reveal its complexity and nuance; its true color is probably far purpler.
Both the moral obligation to help our fellow humans in need and the all too real threat of terrorism must be taken into consideration. We cannot allow xenophobia or passionate idealism to run countries. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear or seduced by love. There is but one human capacity that should govern, and that is reason; and reason hates simple answers and loves open-minded debate.
Let us discuss this and all other issues facing the world with fierce passion and calculated logic. Let us be humble and admit our fallibility. Let us see the people in the other trench not as an enemy but as people who will help sharpen and refine our own ideas. Let us confront the blurred lines of reality with courage; and maybe then we’ll be able to every so often make the right decision.