Anger, Fear, and the Refugee Crisis – Views From A Loft

There are a lot of people having very angry things to say in the news and on Facebook concerning Syrian refugees, lately. The heart of the problem stems from the fact that one of the suicide bombers that attacked Paris recently got into France by posing as a refugee. People are expressing concern that such a conduit might be used to get terrorists into our country. Our governor, along with the governors of thirty-eight other states (at the time of this writing) has asked that none of the Syrian refugees be relocated to our state. As this solution to the Syrian Refugee Problem is discussed, there are a lot things being said that would lead you to believe that many Americans hate Syrian refugees, even though most don’t know a single one. I can’t give you my solution to this problem because, frankly, I don’t have one that has any chance of solving it while maintaining a scrap of personal humanity. I don’t give my opinion on this subject because I don’t want this forum to be a discussion about my opinion. Instead, I want to talk about the relationship between anger and fear and what they do to lines of communication.

I want to start by saying I’m a big fan of politics: not all individual politicians, of course, but I like the idea of talking out problems. In a real sense, people never progress beyond the sandbox when it comes to high intensity, interpersonal problems. When they stop talking, they start throwing things — starting with food (sometimes, extensively processed food) and rocks, then progressing to bullets and bombs with the specter of nuclear weapons always in the back of everyone’s minds (haven’t you already heard someone suggest that as a way to deal with ISIS? I have. “A-bombs: turns ISIS into WASWAS”). I’ve been in two situations now where the throwing phase had already started or was about to start any minute. I really, really do recommend the talking.

However, in order to achieve any meaningful communication, you’ve got to be talking about the same thing, and here is where the fear/anger confusion comes in. It has been my observation that many if not most adults will not admit to being terrified of something in a general social environment. In intimate moments to especially significant others, they might express the depth of their fears, but maybe not. They may not express it, even to their own selves. Instead, people tend to react to the thing which terrifies them with anger. In this situation, the terrorists did what they intended — spread terror. Some people are now afraid of where and when they will strike next. Others are afraid of what their own reaction to the terror is doing to them, to their humanity. In the midst of the angry words and general name calling, no one is actually dealing with the core of their fear. It is easier to be angry. But, the angry doesn’t solve the problem or if it does, it’s not a solution you’re going to be happy with once the angry has passed. We’ve all done things when we were mad that we were very sorry to have done once we weren’t mad. That can happen on an international scale just as it happens on an interpersonal one. We have to tone down the fear-induced anger to be able to find a solution. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your idea doesn’t necessarily make him an ignoramus descended from particularly stupid apes. Ideas should be presented with zeal — if you don’t passionately believe in them, why should anyone else? However, excessive zeal (“If you don’t accept my reasonable and peaceful solution, I’ll come over there and knock your block off”) has to be avoided. It is a serious problem that will need a serious solution and those don’t come by shouting. A shouting person may be heard but few actually listen to him.

Two other things need to considered. The first is that there is a real fear about the Syrian refugees. We are afraid of what they might do. After all, one of them was a terrorist — one of the estimated 850,000 Syrian refugees in Europe was, in fact, a terrorist — and he blew up innocent people. That fact cannot be ignored without trivializing the lives of those who died and those whose lives will never be the same. Now, 10,000 will be coming here. You might try to believe that the chance of any one of those refugees being terrorists is so small as to be non-existent. Well, an “extremely small chance” is not the same as “no chance”. If you’re confused about that issue, there are 130 families in France who can explain it to you better than I can. The fear is real and any solution has to deal with it. Then, there is this other thing to consider.

Most Americans know about the Holocaust in World War II, where Nazi Germany killed 6,000,000 Jewish people (among others) and many have heard the name “The Final Solution” associated with it. Did you know, however, that the Nazis’ final solution to the Jewish problem wasn’t their first solution? Their first solution was forced immigration of Jews to other countries. The project was so successful that it caused a refugee crises in the other countries. Then, in 1938, in Evian, France, a conference was convened. Present were delegates from 32 countries, including representatives from the United States. Of the 32, only the Dominican Republic agreed to accept additional Jewish refugees. The rest — all the rest — closed their doors. The question of how many of the Holocaust victims might have been saved had the Conference participants acted with more mercy cannot, of course, be answered. However, in the pursuit of justice, it can be and should be asked. “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” “He will reply, ‘Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:44-45). The question we have to find a way to answer is: “What do we do to protect those we love while being both merciful and just to those who have done nothing wrong beyond running for their lives from the situation in their own country?”

~ Kurt Hendrix


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