Men, women and children are fleeing war by piling into rafts that are not seaworthy and often sink. For a brief moment, it looked like the world was waking up to the reality of this nightmare when little Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body was photographed face-down and sinking into the sands of a Turkish beach. Aylan had been the victim of a capsized raft. Gone, too, were his mother and brother, leaving his father as the only member of his family left alive.
And the world did react, with Europe opening its borders ever so slightly only to shut them a week later. Canada joined effort, taking in thousands of refugees as did Syria’s neighbor, Jordan. In the United States, President Obama committed to accepting 10,000 refugees – only to be greeted by howls of protest.
Haven’t we learned our lesson yet? During World War II there were boatloads of refugees crossing the Atlantic in hope of settling in the land of equality and opportunity only to be disappointed when told they were not “wanted.” With Europe in the throes of war, the men, women, and children who were turned away from our shores were left with nowhere to go. Many had no choice but to return to Europe, where the steady drumbeat of war was transforming into a frenzied maelstrom of troops, tanks, industrial-grade genocide factories and concentration camps.
The killings that are taking place today in and around Syria may look different than the killing factories of World War II, but human lives are at risk. Can any American truly deny that these people need help?
Pundits up and down the radio dial began to make error-ridden pronouncements demanding that refugees be barred from entering the country. When President Obama announced his initiative to help refugees, they were immediately accused of being “sleeper cells” and becoming terrorists. In reality, the apparent motive of the people fleeing Syria is seeking to keep their families alive.
I hope the majority in Congress will wake up to the fact that the world is watching, and that labelling innocent people as terrorists will plant them firmly on the wrong side of history.