Refugees and Fear

Spend some time googling images of Syrian refugees and you may expect to find people in foreign looking clothing, rail thin with bony, dirty faces, but you'll be surprised. You'll find western-looking outfits on families assembled together, in make-shift tents or boats... somewhere... but families remaining together. I think for some people it would be harder to see the "Western-looking" images than that of a perceived third-world nation, which Syria is not. It's not expected.

(Photo from the Guardian editorial

Four million Syrian refugees have fled their country (roughly the population of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts). These people, some not Muslim (some not religious at all, certainly) were stuck in the middle between a repressive dictatorship that used chemical weapons on its own people and the deadly-horrible terrorist Islamic State. These people didn't leave for jobs (that's a migrant labor), these people left because it was not safe for them to live where they lived. Some of their houses are gone. Some of their towns are gone. Some of them are safer sailing in a raft in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea than in their cities. Consider that for a moment. Your family in a raft at sea because your town had hundreds of mines around it, or soldiers, or shrapnel. It's hard for Americans to imagine that because it never happened here. The worst of the worse did not happen here. Katrina affected nearly 2 million people (as much as our government botched that on every level, there was some support). The Haitian Earthquake destroyed the capital city of Haiti and may have affected 5 million lives. In Syria, 12 million people have been uprooted in someway. That's New England's population and New Jersey.

This video does a much better job of explaining the scope of this crisis than can I.

Which brings me to the sad response to the refugee crisis after the bombing in Paris (which now appears to be carried out mostly by people born in Europe). As of writing, 27 governors have announced their states will not be accepting refugees, and xenophobia is dominating social media, despite the fact we've had a pretty smooth path with refugees and terror since 9/11 (no refugee on US soil has been arrested for terrorism). It's the mix of foreigners and Islam and a media that is like caffeine to the part of the American mind that controls the terror sensors. We are getting some horrific "logic" arguments that "we should help our veterans" (since when has anyone cared about that, sadly) rather than refugees. In my home state of Connecticut, a recent article in the Hartford Courant sourced that there are 41 chronically homeless veterans in the state (vs. the 4,000,000 refugees from Syria). It's sad that we didn't take care of our veterans, but homeless people in Connecticut have a lot longer life expectancy than Syrian refugees because, frankly, it's safer to be homeless in Connecticut than to be Syrian right now. And on the question of "radical Islam" (whatever that means), thousands of more Muslims have died by the hands of ISIS than have "Westerners".

Maybe I'm missing the "fear gene" or logic is a deeper thing with me, but when I read the comments on social media, when someone writes "Sign this petition to stop refugees from entering the US" on their Facebook page, it translates to me "I'm irrationally afraid of not-white non-American people" or "I respond more to fear than logic". It's clear as day to me, as if I'm the only one who sees it and everyone who writes these things has a behavior disorder and doesn't realize they are advertising their fear and prejudice. It's like a "kick me" sign on the back of a school kid that they think says something else. Even my wife, who never talks about social media, complained to me today about these people who post "awful things about refugees".

I think some people need to google the images of Syrian refugees. Look up a picture of Steve Jobs as his father was Syrian. See pictures of people, not in turbans or robes, but Adidas soccer pants and logo tee-shirts, sitting in tents, massed in open fields or in store-bought rafts. I think people will find it harder to turn refugees away when they see how much they look like us Westerners.  They are humans, like us. We could be them, we just happened to be born in the West. These aren't terrorist people. They aren't people looking for a place to start a better career. These are desperate people, desperate people by no fault of their own. Just where and when they happened to be born. They don't want to blow you up. They want to sleep and not worry about dying over night. You have the chance to save someone's life. Or, you can choose to be afraid for the sake of being afraid.

Treat desperate people well. This is how you are judged by fellow men and higher-powers than men.


Freedom isn't free. Neither is terrorism.

Freedom isn't free. Neither is terrorism

Friday, November 13, 2015 will be a date synonymous with Paris just like 9/11/2001 is with New York City or Washington. The days that followed were for prayer, mourning and unity (French unity and nationalism, but also a world uniting with France). These were also days for investigation - what happened? How did it happen? How to make sure this never happens again.

We should pray for Paris. Keep them in our thoughts. Paris is one of the great cities of the world and one of the most important for cultural, economic and historical regions. Many things in our history come from Paris. The lives lost were more important than any "cause".

Americans have mixed views of France. France was our big brother during the American Revolution, lending support as we broke away from Britain. France was at our side in every where we fought, although sometimes they wouldn't let us use their airspace for air attacks (which Spain also did not allow, yet somehow we only focused on France). Some Americans love France - it is the fashion and gourmet capital of the world. But some Americans also hate France, perhaps because of their "socialist" government with a short work week and their lack of interest in fighting in some of our Middle Eastern wars. Aside from all of this, France is an ocean away yet when people crossed that ocean, the first thing they saw was a French statue.

So as time has moved based the initial hours since these horrible attacks, we must move on to stopping these attacks from ever happening again. (Note: I did not say "retaliation" - that is an endless bloody mess). In the upcoming days we'll learn more of the bombings/shootings, their source, the people who carried them out. I'd wager to bet most of the killers were young males, probably most of them coming from a background of poverty, war and (if they had better medical care in the past) mental health issues. Perhaps for some "religion" was a means of survival in their lives and a way to become a hero, a martyr. It's the formula of terrorism; find people who have nothing to live for, unite them in a highly-adulterated form of a religion, give them more money and fame than they could ever have otherwise and give them an enemy. It's low-level thinking for low-level people (and not confined to radicalized Islam). There was Al-Qaeda, there was the Taliban and now there is ISIS/ISIL and this group is not the junior varsity. These groups kills hundreds of fellow Middle Easterners and Muslims before they take aim at the west.

ISIS made an awful, un-godly move by their attacks in Paris. No one who is a lover of God, whether they call themselves a Jew or Christian or Muslim, would ever believe in mass-killing and self-killing. ISIS was doing awful things in their own region without much of the "Western" world caring. Now Russia is bombing at will. The US had just been doing drone attacks. Expect more from them. France is bombing now too. Iran would want nothing more to fight against ISIS as well.  Who is their ally? The place where ISIS is now will be a bloody war zone.

I'll ask this however. All these guns in the propaganda video: How much do they cost? These people in ISIS controlled areas... where does their food come from? There's not a lot of crops being grown in Northern Iraq/Western Syria? How do they get electricity? How do they get on the internet to post their videos? All these people in ISIS have lived lives of substance and constant war. In Iraq and Syria, both countries have been lead by authoritative dictators for most of these people's lives. On top of their brutality, numerous wars from Westerners have also been fought in Iraq. These ISIS people are poor and have lived lives of war and fear. They will die for their jaded beliefs because their lives are of so little value that they applaud their own children becoming suicide bombers. And someone pays them $700 a month to be an ISIS soldier. 700 times... how many soldiers? That's a lot of money. I couldn't afford to subsidize one ISIS soldier. Could you?

Someone is paying for this. We'll drop bombs on Syria and northern Iraq. I doubt the money men are there. Why don't we find them. We'll bomb a bunch of poor desperate people, perhaps into oblivion, so that only a few survive. Odds are they are the seeds of the next terror group. Terrorism just keeps going. Someone has been buying terrorism. Just like 9/11, we didn't follow the money. We invaded the wrong country and it was part of the reason ISIS formed where it is. Misguided people attracted to Iraq for the chance to kill "the image of Westerners" they had (when all they really killed were underpaid, overworked American soldiers).

The rich don't fight wars. Obama and Putin won't get behind a tank and pick up arms. But at the same time, wealthy people are funding ISIS. If you killed the money, ISIS would starve, lose electricity, lose weapons. Seems more efficient than sending in thousands of troops to me? Who are these people paying for ISIS? They need to die. They need bombs in their laps and mines in their pools. I don't care if they are in Riyadh or Baghdad. These rich cowards paying poor people to die need to become afraid. Wealthy ISIS patrons need to become afraid. They are more evil than the endless supply of foot soldiers.

Terrorism is a centipede. We keep cutting off legs, not the head.

#WhoIsPaying4ISIS ?