Have We Lost Our Moral Compass?

Very rarely do I get outraged by anything these days. I tend to be able to leave politics at the door. I don’t live it. It’s not a matter of life and death. In fact, I have been “accused” of being too moderate, took quick to befriend and interact with the other side of the aisle. But what I’ve seen written in social media in connection to the refugee crisis painfully unfolding in the Middle East and Europe has me wondering if we have totally lost our moral compass.

These are folks I otherwise consider smart, educated, well-informed and caring. They are “friends” on Facebook and people I “follow” on Twitter. What they’ve written turns my stomach.

Some six million people—a good portion of them children—have been displaced from their homes in Syria. They are risking everything to get to countries where they can be safe, where they can live and work, and where they can grow up. Their bombed-out cities and towns can no longer provide shelter. It’s either run or die.

refugee kids

One friend wrote that “we shouldn’t take in anyone from that part of the world.” Another reasons is, in essence, “It’s at least partially Obama’s fault the crisis exists at all and now he wants us to take them in.” The former speaks for itself and latter makes no sense at all.

Let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that President Obama withdrawing troops from Iraq destabilized the region, empowered Iran which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Let’s also stipulate that the destabilization of Iraq, the mess that is Libya and the quandary that is Egypt is all at least partially the fault of the United States.

That is not a reason for the US not to take in refugees. In fact, the opposite is true. We broke it. We should help fix it.

When the question of whether a good number of refugees should be relocated here is raised, the knee-jerk reaction is, “Have we learned nothing from 9-11?” and “This is exactly what happened with the Tzarnaev brothers [the Boston Marathon bombers].” Some Republican presidential candidates have glommed to these excuses for hate mongering and xenophobia.

refugee fleeing

I’m personally offended by the citing of these American tragedies to justify keeping the very most vulnerable in the world from reaching safe haven. I was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and I witnessed the second, wrath-of-God explosion as it happened. That day, its aftermath and the scars on the American psyche (and on those of us who were there) won’t go away. But something tells me that little three-year old boy whose body washed up on the beach, his brother and mother who drowned escaping certain death, didn’t have some grand plan to flee their homes, risk live and limb to try to get to safety on the off chance they could get to the US, be educated, grow up, and attack us.

9-11 was a massive intelligence failure not the result of taking in refugees.

As far as the Boston bombers, they came here in 2002 and there was sufficient grounds for them to be flagged through the years. They weren’t. (For what it’s worth, I was there for that jackpot, too. A big ol’ “Shelter in place” sign was hung on my front door in Cambridge as police engaged in a shootout a few streets over.) They refugees are not indicative of people who come here. We now have better screening and technology to have a better handle on who comes here.

I don’t know, but I believe, that most people who use these reasons for keeping the refugee children out of this country don’t really believe them themselves. They are simply using them as cover for their bigotry. I realize that I am making a very serious charge indeed, which is unlike me. But as I said at the top, this is an exception to my general Hanging Shad rules. And I don’t care. There are children dying and it’s unacceptable to do nothing.

You can also shove that argument that goes something like, “The Arab countries in the Middle East aren’t taking the refugees in so why should we?” This is simplistically stupid. If a house was burning would you not act to help even if the neighbors are sitting still?

So when you hear people fear-mongering or presidential-wannabe nitwits spewing this nonsense, for heaven’s sake, speak up. There are moms and dads clutching their children, crawling under razor wire and running for their lives. Image if it was your child.

It seems as though our modern world has left some of us cold, uncaring and cynical. And that’s sad.