I’ve been rendered speechless. I am rarely speechless. The mass shootings at San Bernardino, California, not too far from where I live and the response of Donald Trump to ban all Muslims entering the country and the rank and file GOP doubling down saying they will support whoever the Republican candidate for president will be, regardless of who it is. These three things happening in sequence have rendered me speechless. I am rarely speechless.
Despite House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders denouncing Donald Trump’s views, they fall short of saying they will not support him should he become Republican nominee for president. This to me is tacit agreement with Donald Trump. This is just asking Donald Trump to be their hit man and they hide behind this bigot like cowards.
I remember the actress and comedienne Rosie O’Donnell saying she fell into a dark hole of depression after the Columbine shootings, she despaired at the turn of events in America. How children can pick up arms and shoot their classmates. I scoffed at it at the time. O’Donnell being far away from Colorado, ensconced in her New York mansions, her children probably attend private schools where each student is carefully selected and vetted, what’s she got to worry about? Her children will never be subjected to this kind of terror. Her children will grow up in the lap of luxury where every need is attended to. But today I understand her feeling of despair, more so than when the Columbine shooting happened. I don’t mean the helplessness of a parent’s misguided thinking that a school is a safe environment for children, the second safest place outside of our homes (it isn’t anymore), but it’s a feeling in which the world has gone to the dogs. The insane has taken over the asylum. Like we’ve woken up in a twisted Twilight Zone where logic and reason have been turned on its ear.
With the mass shooting in San Bernardino, inspired or motivated by ISIS, where a Jewish rabbi was targeted and killed, and Donald Trump’s response and the positive reaction (or lack of sufficient condemnation) to his response and the Republican establishment’s affirmation that they will support anyone who becomes the Republican nominee have given me reason for complete and utter despair. If Donald Trump claims to speak for the ‘Silent Majority’ of racists, bigots, Islamophobes, reactionaries, gun nuts, Bible beaters, homophobes, transgender-phobes, basically anyone who isn’t white, Christian and straight, then I don’t want anything to do with these people. They can all break off and form the United States of Cra Cra below the Mason-Dixie line on their own.
There are already a lot of articles, blog entries, think pieces which can further dissect and articulate this unfortunate turn of events better than I and besides, I am too speechless to say much more than I’ve already said. So, I will focus my attention elsewhere, something more productive. And that is to help our new Syrian-American refugees who are coming to this country.
The founders and organizers of Humans of New York, have recently returned from Jordan and Turkey. They spoke to 12 families who have been approved for resettlement in the United States of America and will be arriving on our shores very soon. They graciously told them their stories of suffering and hardship and how they are desperate for a new start in a new country. Because they are refugees and do not have resident status in Jordan and Turkey, they are banned from working legally and earning a decent wage. They are prohibited from accessing the health care system in those countries because they are not insured and do not have state sponsored health benefits. Their lives have been in limbo since the civil war in Syria broke out.
This woman is a young widow with a small daughter. She was widowed before the civil war, her husband died in a car accident shortly after their wedding. She was studying for her PhD at the University of Damascus when the war started, all she has in this world is her daughter.
When ISIS took over this young couple’s town. ISIS militants abducted her husband. ISIS somehow found out she was a doctor and happens to be the only doctor in town so they arrested her abducted to coerce him into forcing his wife to work for them as a doctor and to sweeten the pot, they’ll let him run and manage the clinic. To appease the militants he agreed and they released him from jail. He agreed. The minute he got home, they packed their few belongings and ran for their lives.
Perhaps most tragic is this man’s story. He was a scientist and an architect and builder by night. He built a four building compound for he and his family to live in. The Syrian Regime’s barrel bombs tore through his buildings and killed 16 people of which 7 were his family. The bombs killed his brother’s entire family and his wife and injured his daughter. Whatever wasn’t destroyed by the bombs was looted and stolen for the next two days as the whole roof of his home was blown open. He fled with his two teenaged children to Turkey. He couldn’t get a job because he isn’t a Turkish resident but a refugee. At a nearby university, they are teaching students from a book he wrote but yet they refused him a job. To make money he draws building designs where other people claim as their own work and pay him a pittance for his ideas, creation and originality (talk about stealing from people who have nothing). Finally, he’s been diagnosed with stomach cancer, he feels it’s because of all the stress and sorrow that’s befallen him and his family. He’s been to hospital many times and the cancer can be contained with a routine surgery, which he is hoping to come to the United States to get. The Turkish hospitals refuse to carry out the procedure for him because he is a refugee and doesn’t have health benefits.
He’s been told he and his family will be resettled to Troy, Michigan and he has this to say:
“I still think I have a chance to make a difference in the world. I have several inventions that I’m hoping to patent once I get to America. One of my inventions is being used right now on the Istanbul metro to generate electricity from the movement of the train. I have sketches for a plane that can fly for 48 hours without fuel. I’ve been thinking about a device that can predict earthquakes weeks before they happen. I just want a place to do my research. I learned today that I’m going to Troy, Michigan. I know nothing about it. I just hope that it’s safe and that it’s a place where they respect science. I just want to get back to work. I want to be a person again. I don’t want the world to think I’m over. I’m still here.”
This gentlemen has more class, brains, intellect and dignity than Donald Trump and the other GOP presidential candidates put together.
I don’t know how I will achieve this, but I have made a personal mission to reach out and help our new Syrian-Americans. I don’t just mean with money and donations, but more than that. I want to make them feel welcome. I want to offer them friendship. It’s often said one of the best things to offer someone who is suffering is your kindness and friendship. They have already been through so much and lost so much. They are coming to a new place, leaving all of their surviving friends and families behind. They must forge new lives, learn a new language, acclimate to a new culture who is hostile to them for no good reason besides the fact they may be Muslim. Humans of New York do not give their names or what religion they belong to, they are just human, like the rest of us.
We can be penpals or e-pals with them. The least we can do is offer them friendship, kindness and to make them feel welcome. Many of these people may never see the land of their birth again. Many Americans don’t appreciate this fact, we live in our homeland in peace and stability (even the mass shootings we encounter is nothing like what the Iraqis and Syrians are going through right now). We have not seen war on our American soil since The Civil War in the 1860s. Pearl Harbor was attacked but it hardly made it to the shores of the US mainland. My grandparents who were refugees left China in 1950 and never saw their homeland again. It was a source of great sorrow to them.
For all the ignoramuses out there who say ‘why aren’t all those Syrian young men helping to defend their country against ISIS? Why aren’t they helping to fight for their country?’ First of all, shut the hell up and listen to what this lady has to say:
Many of the young men of army conscription age are fleeing Syria so they don’t have to do horrible things to innocent people. Which army do you suggest they join? The Al-Assad’s Syrian Regime forces where they are bombing civilians indiscriminately and basically abducting young men to fight or are they supposed to join ISIS, Khorasan or other terrorist groups to fight? Or do you suggest they join the Hezbollah and fight alongside Al-Assad? The Syrian state as a single entity has all but crumbled in name. These men aren’t fighting for ‘a country’, they will be fighting for the ‘side’ they wish to remain on and right now they are all terrible. And for argument’s sake, let’s say all Syrian nationals should fight with Syrian Regime forces (Al-Assad). Most of Syrian Regime forces are comprised Alawite or Shia Muslims, the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. And the forces comprised of Alawites and Shiites are bombing Sunni insurgents and opposition areas, even civilian areas, regardless if they are moderate Sunni or ISIS, is it people’s idea that these young Sunni men, of which the regime have destroyed their homes and neighborhoods go fight with the people that have destroyed their homes, killed their family and ruined their lives?
And for those who say the US has enough of our own problems, we still have a lot of people unemployed and toiling in low wage jobs, homeless veterans, veterans without care or benefits, social security trust going bankrupt, medicare going bankrupt, hell, our whole nation going to the dogs, therefore, we should mind our own business and help our own in need before we help outsiders. This is a cop out. Humans, throughout our long and tortured history, have always helped others in need, usually when we are at our worst, when we need help ourselves, we still share what little we have with others. This is why we are human and not beasts. And it’s acts of these kindnesses which give me hope for the human race.
The ‘problems’ of America pales in comparison to the rest of the world. The European Union is dealing with millions of refugees, the EU has no control of who arrives at their shores and what happens to the arrivals when the refugees reach the Schengen zone. The United States are vetting its refugee candidates. The people featured on Humans of New York have endured a two year plus process in order to be resettled in the United States. And for the anti-immigration camp, for your information, these people are ‘legally’ immigrating. This is the most ‘legal’ channel possible. Lodging an application with the UNHCR and the UN handing it over to the State department for selection.
So far, I don’t know of any refugees being resettled in my area but I will reach out to all Syrian refugees in the United States to offer my friendship and assistance in any way they need. Even if it’s something simple like where the nearest bookstore or library is, a community center with free activities, places of worship etc. And I hope you all join me. Please suggest anything which may be useful towards this goal in the comments section.