Opinion: A Plea For Refugees
When I think of refugees, I think of all the wonderful people I have met over the span of my 16 year career and how they have touched my heart as I have known them and shared in their lives. These are people. These are human beings who deserve the dignity afforded to all of us. The case for them to have the opportunities that they already have in our great country has already been made. There are already tens of thousands of Muslim refugees living and working in our communities, actively participating and contributing to our society, and pursuing citizenship and serving in our military.
After being uprooted from their homes and countries by war, famine, genocide, sectarian violence, slavery, systematic torture, and all sorts of horrible things that most of us will never have the horror of experiencing — after all of that, they come here and face racism, Islamophobia, and the difficulty of raising their families on an income substantially less than the average American family — and after all of that they are still happy, healthy, hardworking, and hopeful. It breaks my heart to think that there are those among us who are screaming into the air that those, much like the people I know, are unworthy or less than.
I know a thing or two about hearing that message when I turn on the television. I used to wake up everyday and hear someone say that my kind was less than theirs. It is a message fueled by hate and fear. Dehumanizing an entire swath of people to bolster knee-jerk prejudices born in a time of emotional insobriety is always wrong. It was wrong when it was done to the indigenous people of the Americas when their very existence didn’t coincide with our huge plans for this continent’s land. It was wrong when it was done to the Irish and Chinese immigrants of the 19th century. It was wrong when it was done to the Italians in the early 20th century. It was wrong when it was done to the Jews, the Japanese and Germans, the Koreans, the Cubans, the Vietnamese, the Panamanians, and those with a lineage of African descent — my God how they have been wronged. It was was wrong when it was done to the homosexuals and the feminists. It was wrong when it was done to Indian immigrants. It was wrong when it was done to every single person who came from any country south of El Paso and continues to be wrong.
This latest instance of dehumanizing judgement against an entire group of people based on fear and hate after an atrocious attack on the French people — this is also wrong. We have embraced hate and renamed the innocent with the title of “less than” to satisfy our collective insecurity and need for a scapegoat to wear the wrath of our fear.
Some among us are so good at being wrong when it comes to everything that it means to have a sense of human decency. I’m pissed off and I have to say this or else I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep ever again. These Syrian refugees deserve compassion and love, because everyone deserves this.
I’m a gay borderline-atheist who has spent his whole life resenting religious oppression and I’m fed the fuck up. And yes, I would use these words in front of my mother and she would understand. And speaking of mothers, one mother particularly comes to mind. A Muslim woman who came here when she was young, grew up here, started a family here… a mother whose son I have had the great privilege of seeing grow up. I hope he never has to know this kind of hate. I hope we would stop being so wrong. I hope the words he hears about the worth of all people isn’t the message that is being spewed out right now in such a hateful way. I hope of so much for him, his mother, and all people who are are displaced from their corner of the world by circumstances beyond the scope of my comprehension. I hope that we are able to stop being so wrong and learn to love the spectrum of people who want the same things as people who look and talk like us… the intrinsic values and dreams to which all of humanity aspires. This is so very personal. What we say about the value of other people’s lives can cut so deep or inspire a sense of being loved.
Words matter. I’m not a naive young man anymore and I know that my words may not have an actual impact on many, but they still matter. All of our words matter. I hope that we all could reach out to at least one person who deserves to hear that their humanity is acknowledged — that we respect the dignity of their life and have love in our hearts for them. I know how much hearing that from someone face-to-face can silence the contradicting message of hate which suffocates the air waves.
Actions, as they say, speak louder than words. If you want some action, please set yourself into action. There are a number of organizations in every major U.S. city that provide outreach assistance to refugees from all over this mad world of ours. If you are in Columbus and are at all swayed by my words or perhaps the Christmas spirit catches you off guard, then take a look at the flyer below for an event on Wednesday, December 9th to benefit refugees who are living in your community and desperately need someone to reach out a loving hand. As always, peace and love.
– Brian Anthony Kirby
For more ongoing discussions on ways to can assist refugees locally, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.