icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Another Perspective

Guest Blog: Refugees and the American Response

Today I am beginning a series of guest blogs. This is an excellent essay and I urge you
to read it and respond. It is shared with permission.

The Good Samaritan and the American Response to the Refugee Crisis

November 17, 2015 Christian Winger
Last Friday, France was shaken by a violent and horrifying display of terrorism that has shocked the world. We stared in horror as a series of coordinated attacks took the lives of over 100 people. This attack affected me personally. Not three weeks earlier I had seen the band Eagles of Death Metal, the band playing the theater that was targeted that night. I saw a social media post from a friend living nearby to Paris that almost went to the same show. I first heard of the attack from who a woman who informed me her brother worked in a restaurant down the street from the carnage and had no idea if he was safe. I also saw the outpouring of support for France on social media. I saw a sea of flags on my Facebook Feed the next morning, and the heartfelt messages written in solidarity. The support given for these people who underwent such a terrible tragedy has been heartwarming. Yet while we have expressed support for the French people, we have simultaneously shifted our views of another group of people.

In the aftermath of this attack, the world has taken its fight against ISIS to a new level. Problematically, we have also responded to this crisis by exacerbating another one that is intimately connected, the refugee crisis. Millions of refugees have fled everything they have ever known to escape the terror that we were just given a small taste of on Friday. The very hell that France just experienced has been visited upon these people every day. Yet while we have been so eager to help France we have been less than enthusiastic to help these people, showing hatred and fear towards them. As I speak, twenty-six governors have decided that they wish to close off any possibility of taking in these refugees for fear that they may be secretly terrorists. Furthermore, presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have expressed the view that we should focus on only Christian refugees, a move that drew sharp condemnation from President Obama. On social media I have seen so many posts and comments that have wasted no time in using this attack to promote hatred of Islam as a whole, associating all Muslims with violent extremists. I have seen blanket statements of all refugees as secret terrorists cells bent on infiltration of our beloved country. I have seen more than enough try to link it all to President Obama as a grand conspiracy. Overall, the response has been anything but kind, and has shifted the blame for the attack to the acceptance of refugees. This attitude is completely misplaced and exactly the type of response that ISIS expects and wants. An article in the Washington Post brilliantly destroys this reasoning.

The greatest fear I have seen expressed against the refugees is that they will bring terrorists into our midst and compromise our safety. This view rests on the assumptions that all muslims, or a majority thereof, are radicalised and wish us harm. The roots of this reasoning lies with the availability hueristic, where recent information is weighed more heavily in decision making. Considering the horrific nature of terrorist events, those with no knowledge of the breadth of the Muslim religion and no personal connections to it would assume that the exemplar represents the norm. This view is completely untenable when considering that the number of Muslims in the world is expected to reach 2.8 billion, around the same number of Christians worldwide. Even so, the salience of these events lead to an over representation of risk. If one’s experience of a religion is limited to the violent and horrific headlines, than it stands to reason that they would associate it as a violent and horrific religion. While Muslims have universally condemned these actions, this view still persists.

What bothers me the most about this entire situation, however, is the level of hatred I have seen by Christians directed toward these refugees. As a nation that many like to claim is a ‘Christian’ nation, we are notoriously bad at following the teachings of its central figure: Jesus. Matthew 5:43-48 clearly stated to love your enemies, with the addition that ‘if you only greet your brothers and sisters what more are you doing than others?’ Matthew 25 tells us that we must take care of the least of these, but a more direct parallel to how we should act is outlined in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. In this parable a man is robbed and beaten and left for dead. Two people, including a priest refuse to help. Finally, a Samaritan, a sworn enemy, shows mercy and helps him. The Samaritan is not concerned for who this man is, but simply saw him as a person broken and in need. Similarly, these refugees are at our door in their hour of need. They are desperate. They have nothing. They have lost their homes, their livelihood, their way of life. They have left everything they have ever known out of necessity, and turned to the world for support in desperation. In turn we have turned their backs on them.

It amazes me how as a nation we can profess to be followers of Christ but can turn a blind eye to those who need our help the most. We waste no energy in protecting our religious beliefs by lobbying against gay marriage to protect God’s view of marriage. We claim religious persecution when we can not display Christian symbols on government buildings. We decry corporations that have the audacity to use non-descript holiday cups that do not celebrate our specific Christian heritage. The response from Christians on these ‘issues’ has been deafening. And then we are given a chance to demonstrate basic tenents of our faith. To show love to our neighbors. To follow the words of the Son of God himself. And we fail. Then we celebrate that failure as a protection of our freedoms and our way of life. This is not the way Jesus would want us to act. We have been given an opportunity here. We have been given a chance to show the world that we are the followers of Christ that we claim to be. That we will respond with fear and hatred through love and acceptance. That will we will not be deterred by those who wish to destroy us. That we will take care of those lying beaten and bloodied by the side of the road, not because they are like us but because they are fellow humans lying in need. That we too can be the Good Samaritans and can alleviate their suffering. Instead our response has been to play into fear and hatred, to despise that which is not like us, and to extend a hand only to our brothers and sisters and not the stranger at our gates.

The level of cognitive dissonance in this situation is astounding. The solidarity we have demonstrated by rejecting these people is contrary to the very nature of our being. We have abandoned our principles as a nation and abandoned the principles of our faith. And we have done so out of fear. I am proud of this nation. I am proud of it’s ideals. I believe in our constitution, our commitment to freedom, and our celebration of diversity and opportunity. But today I am not proud of it’s people. I am sick and tired of the hatred, the bigotry, and the utter disregard for the sanctity of human life. We have shown that we are willing to abandon an entire people in need out of fear, and in doing so we have done more damage to ourselves than ISIS ever could. We have shown these refugees, and the world, that we will look terror in the eye and cower before it. That we are too afraid to do what is just for what it might cost us.

Interestingly enough, in 1886 the nation of France gifted us the great Statue of Liberty. Engraved on a plaque is a poem by Emma Lazarus that reads the following:

“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.”

About The Author
Christian Winger is a man of many talents. In the mornings he can be found carefully pouring a rosetta into a single-origin cappuccino, while in the evenings he shreds the guitar with popular Sacramento rock band Humble Wolf. He also has a background in biopsychology, which he uses to analyze the cognitive biases behind political thoughts.
Be the first to comment