In 1909, a 26-year-old carpenter and his wife arrived in New York City as immigrants from a country that, 106 years later, is a topic of global debate. Shortly after their immigration from Syria to the United States, this couple had a daughter, and eventually, this daughter had a son, a son that become a comedian, and then an actor, starring in a wildly popular “show about nothing”.
In the 1950’s, a Syrian man fled the Middle East as political protests spiraled out of control. Seeking refuge from the turmoil, he traveled to the United States, eventually landing in Wisconsin. Here, he fell in love with a German-Swiss Catholic woman, and, eventually, this couple had a baby, a boy, a boy who grew into the man who made phones as smart as he was, who made computers accessible to all.
Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Jobs highlight our country’s collection of citizens whose family arrived via Syria. These individuals–all of them, not just the ones of fame and fortune–helped shape our country into what it is today.
To deny war-weary Syrian refugees access into our country is to deny the American narrative, to deny our country’s history and foundation–yet that is exactly what the governors of 20+ states and political leaders across the country have just done.
In addition to their astonishingly low levels of empathy, these are governors and statesmen that proudly declare their commitment to the ways of Christianity, though they are seemingly oblivious to the hypocrisy they foster by shutting the door on the needy and the helpless, an act that is a direct violation of the word of God.
Indiana Christian governor Mike Pence, known Evangelical and purveyor of homophobia, a man already well-versed in religious hypocrisy, has requested state agencies cease all work currently being done to help settle Syrian refugees.
Cincinnati mayor John Cranley has made similar requests, despite being one month removed from a speech declaring his desire to make Cincinnati “the most immigrant-friendly city in the United States.”
Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and son of Indian immigrants, issued an executive order preventing Syrian refugees from being resettled in Louisiana.
As acts of terrorism plague Middle Eastern nations, I am reminded of the breed of terrorism currently plaguing our own nation–mass shootings, which continue to occur on a weekly basis, often by white people, always by males. These shootings occupy our headlines regularly, yet nobody stands up and declares every single white male a terrorist threat. Nobody declares the actions of the Dylan Roofs, the Adam Lanzas to be the acts of all white men–they acknowledge these individuals as anomalies, dark souls who desperately needed mental help. When it comes to Muslims, however, a group made up of over one billion people, we are so quick to claim that each practicing and non-practicing member of the religion is eyeing the extermination of our lives, our families, our nation.
Why are Muslims judged by the worst of their kind, while we judge our ourselves only by our best?
This is not a plea for tolerance towards ISIS or any fanatical group that uses a false guise of religion to purloin the gift of life. This is a plea for tolerance towards those who have suffered at the hands of this wretched hive of humans most frequently.
The Syrian refugees are not inherently evil—they are desperately attempting to elude those who are. Indifference towards their fight is its own brand of hate.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference”
– Elie Wiesel