Mass killings. Shootings. Air attacks. Bombings. Kidnappings. Torture. Slavery. A country where, if you’re lucky enough to still have a home in one piece, you’re afraid to step outside of it. Homes which offer little to no resistance from the constant fall of artillery that could kill you or your family in one second (that is, if you and your family have not succumbed to starvation or fatal injuries already).
This is what Syria looks like as it enters its four-and-a-half year of its civil war.
As of this September, more than 200,000 people-half of them civilians-will have lost their lives due to the Syrian civil war, according to The New York Times. More than four million have already fled their war-torn country and the waves of people seeking refuge show no sign of ebbing.
Small nearby countries such as Turkey and Lebanon have taken in large amounts of refugees, the latter of whose population is now almost 20% Syrian refugee. Many Syrians make the perilous journey by dinghy to Greece, in hopes of seeking refuge in West European nations, many of whom are willing to take them in. Out of the 230,000 refugees who have applied for asylum in the EU, Germany has taken in a whopping 45% of them-this year alone.
Closer to home, Canada has received a little over 3,000 within the past year and has new prime minister Justin Trudeau’s promise that it will take in 25,000 more by the end of February.
And where does the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave, stand in all this? The US has taken in about 1,869 refugees in 2015 so far, and that’s after months of intense security checks and screenings for each one.
The U.S. Department of State owns that “Since its foundation, the United States has offered freedom and opportunity to refugees fleeing the world’s most dangerous and desperate situations. The U.S. refugee resettlement program reflects the core values of the United States and our strong tradition of providing a safe haven for the oppressed.”
Then why aren’t we doing more to help Syrians in need? Why aren’t we at least being as good neighbors as Canada?
After the tragedy of 9/11 terrorist attacks and particularly after the recent triple attacks on Paris, America has grown increasingly more xenophobic and prejudiced
towards refugees. From many people’s point of view, it makes sense to avoid letting in people who are or will become terrorists and cause catastrophes in our nation. We should protect our own first, after all, and worry about the rest of the world later.
But when you look at the statistics-the fact that out of the almost 800,000 total refugees which the US has welcomed since 2011, only three have been arrested on terrorism charges-the more it seems
like denying refugees entrance to our country is simply based on fear mongering, selfishness, and inbred prejudice.
According to the Guardian, more than half of the US’s governors do not support admitting refugees into their states. And although it’s ultimately up to the federal government to make the decision, and Obama has declared that 10,000 Syrian refugees be admitted in the next fiscal year, poor support from states could put quite a strain on achieving that.
Mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, one of the most quintessential landmarks of our nation, are the words of Emma Lazarus’ “The Colossus”: “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome…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!”
These have been our nation’s values since its inception, and compassion has lived on this soil even before then, when Native Americans offered food and shelter to starving pilgrims fleeing religious persecution. Yes, the threat of ISIS still snakes its way into our minds, and yes, there may be a chance in ten thousand that a terrorist could slip through, but what about the other 9,999 lives that could be saved?
Terrorist organizations spread terror, it’s in the name. But we shouldn’t buy into that fear and let it divide us, especially not right now, when it’s so crucial we all stand united against all this violence.