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Leading By Example, in the 21st Century...

History and the refugee question : The better angels of our nature.

On being afraid and acting out of fear


There has been a lot off knee jerk reactions to the questions of allowing refugees in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris, Beirut, Mali, etc. and this is one of this times where it may serve us well to take a step back, pause, read some history and then return to the conversation.

But a few things to think about:


1) We are a nation of immigrants; all of us, with exception of Native Americans, are immigrants in some sense and at some time. There are a lot of "push- pull" factors associated with immigration; many of the push factors are the types of things that create refugees.  


2) It is somewhat human nature to react in an emotional, visceral manner after an brutal attack like the one in Paris (and 9-11 and the July 7th attack in Britain); but it is also possible to balance that with reason and logic, and to add some balanced responses (ones that do not play right into the hands of asymmetrical terrorists).


3) Albert Einstein was a refugee from Nazi Germany and was fortunate to have some VIP pull in order to bypass very restrictive immigration policies at the time.  


4) Steve Jobs absent father was a Syrian immigrant and Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus, Syria.


5) The U.S. has always had a duel love hate relationship with newcomers and there is ample of evidence of this anti-immigration in the historical record (see Irish, Chinese, Catholics, Jews, etc.) There was a distinct spilt between older WASP immigrants and newer eastern European, Catholic, Slavic, Socialist, "dirty", immigrant that came later. Part of the goal of groups like the KKK was to intimidate many of these newcomers the same way they did to freed Blacks after the Civil War (1861-65).


6) When we close our doors and our borders we not only deny our creed on the Statue of Liberty, but we also play into the propaganda of the psychopaths. Again, we need to listen to the better angels of our nature.


7) We have the lessons of the Holocaust, The Trails of Tears, The Internment of Japanese Americans, and the relocations of Aleut people, and the recent Mariel boatlift to inform us of the choices we have before us. Each generation has to decide what it means it be a nation of immigrants, an open society, a democratic society, a Christian nation, etc.


8) What will our children and grandchildren day about how we treated our people who sought refuge into our land?


9) What is the shoe were on the other foot? What if it were our families and us that were displaced by war were forced to seek shelter in another land.


10) Let's be real about the real threat from terrorist and let's be smart about countering that threat.


11) But also let's be real about the refugees, where they are coming from, and our role in the situation (the ongoing civil war between Assad and his people, and the war against ISIS and its Sunni enablers).


12) We have to be honest about what a failure the invasion of Iraq was and how the chaotic occupation and disenfranchisement of the Sunni's gave rise to ISIS in particular; policies by the Bush administration creation the incubating grounds for ISIS and those policies festered for years with a false positive of the Surge thrown in;


13) As mentioned above, our role in the creation of the circumstances that gave rise to ISIS must be acknowledged and the key to their defeat must include addressing the breeding grounds of Sunni isolation and alienation.


14) The refugee issue must be understood in its entirety and we must understand that, and do our part over time to change that dynamic and momentum.


15) We can learn from history; human migration and movement and been a norm since the beginning of recorded history; unfortunately as tribes, nations, and empires have competed and went to war, groups of people have been pushed, pulled, and otherwise been thrown in the grinder that is war and ideology...thus the historical phenomena of refugees...but we can do better than our history, we know what we want our children and grandchildren to read about hat we did...let us do the right thing (the better angels of our nature).

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