We tend to think in extremes; Gandhi vs Hitler, black and white, day and night, good and bad. It reminds me of a quote from Farewell to the King by Pierre Schoendoerffer: “You must forgive the young, they don’t see colors as we do, to them everything is either black or white. But man happens to be gray. Ha! Ha! Ha!” And it seems to me, if I may add, that humanity is getting younger and younger when it comes to mental maturity. Not necessarily a good thing.
The debate about allowing Syrian refugees into the USA, stirred conflicting emotions in me. On one hand, the humanistic liberal that I am quickly stood to remind myself of the outrage I felt when, as a youngster growing up in Israel, I learned that the USA did not lend a hand to help the many Jews persecuted in Europe. This, of course, resulted in the mass extermination that was the Holocaust.
It is said that hate is not the opposite of love. Writer Joan Vinge phrased it eloquently in her novel The Snow Queen: “Indifference is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate do not stand a chance against it. It lets neglect and decay and monstrous injustice go unchecked. It doesn’t act, it allows. And that’s what gives it so much power.” The USA did not do much to help Jews in the 1940’s and millions died. Why? Officially, from what I found when researching this subject years later, after becoming already an American citizen myself, it was because the State Department practiced stricter immigration policies out of fear that Jewish refugees could be blackmailed into working as agents for Nazi Germany. Unofficially? The USA, at least back in the 40’s, was made of a predominantly White Christian population; and despite taking in people of all nationalities and creed, allowing a large number of Jews in all at once, some feared, would have changed the culture of this country. Also, let’s face it, Jews, for most Americans, were not “us”. Maybe, just maybe, if the persecuted were Christians it would have been a different story. Though I am not that sure. Religion is but one part of this equation. For example, when Christian-Arabs were slaughtered in Lebanon during the long Civil War of the later part of the previous century, no one seemed to care. Yes, they were Christians, but they were also Arabs. Ironically, and not without an agenda, it was Israel, the Jewish State, that came to their aid.
There is always a sense of “us” and “them”, being separated by culture, gender, religion and race. We take care of our own first, of others maybe; they are not “us” and thus not that important. Since I aspire to see all human beings as one and the same, the Syrian refugee quandary brought me to question myself — whether my feelings against opening the gates and allowing these refugees in has to do with who they are. The answer is absolutely yes. I would be a hypocrite to claim otherwise. Maybe this is partially because I lived in Israel a good portion of my life and have experienced firsthand the nature of the people of Syria. No, I do not believe all Muslims as evil terrorists. Yes, there are many good and peace-loving Muslims out there. But would I knowingly open my doors to a pack of wolves, hoping that most would happen to be of the domesticated type? As much as I love animals, sorry, I would not. Does that automatically make me a Hitler; an evil person, just because I want to protect my family, friends and nation? Ha! we are back to extremes.
I have been thinking long and hard about this. Not because I am an elevated soul, interested in saving the world, but rather for egoistical reasons; because this allows me an opportunity to learn something about myself. My conclusion is that while Gandhi might have not hesitated to approach the snake pit with open arms, I am not quite there yet. Maybe that is why he was Gandhi and I am just a guy practicing yoga.
I do feel that a solution where Syrian refugees are allowed into the USA but only after an extensive background check, is just. And yes, most terror attacks on US soil were done by White Christian extremists (and some nut cases,) but this is, mind you, because the US does practice some caution before allowing people from troubled countries (is that a politically correct enough term to be used instead of saying Muslims?) to enter the USA. If I am not mistaken, the suicide hijackers of 9/11 were ALL from such creed. Just imagine the number of terror attacks the USA may experience if we let tens of thousands of people in, and, granted, not all but only 0.01% will be of ill-intent. Are we willing to take that chance? So no, I don’t think I am a racist. I admit of having no special fondness towards Muslims; too many of which I have found to openly or secretly wish the destruction of Israel (and, for many, also the downfall of the USA). I am not evil nor a saint. Call me a realistic liberal trying to find a compromise that is not always easy to digest.
Learned from: the discussion about Syrian refugees