When it comes down to it, it’s all about perspective.
Imagine being woken from your sleep by ear piercing sirens and a suffocating blend of smoke and dust. Your parents come running into your room, pajamas covered in soot, overtaken by panic, shouting that you must leave the only home you’ve ever known. You grab your younger siblings by the hands and drag them across the threshold without a minute to spare. The crescendo squeal of a missile gives little warning and you’re thrown off your feet as a fireball erupts behind you. Within minutes your night has become life or death and you have everything riding on your flight. The entire town is running down the street, clueless and panicked: pushing, shoving, shouting. Tripped by an injured neighbor, you recover from your fall to realize your family is no longer in sight. You are now all alone in the middle of a war zone.
Five years ago the Syrian government were thrown into a civil war. There are militarized groups fighting against the Syrian government. As common in all wars, civilians are caught in the crossfire. Over the five years of brutal conflict, 310,000 lives have been lost and more than 11 million people have been forced from their homes in order to save themselves and their families. These displaced peoples are often forced to leave their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their back. They leave everything they have worked for behind, towards an uncertain future. Those unable to find sanctuary in Syria become refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, where 86 percent of refugees live under the poverty line. While those affected by the fighting are gracious for the aid given by countries in the area, the demand for relief is growing every day.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans have generally been more hesitant to let people from Middle Eastern countries enter the United States. We are a proud and patriotic nation and will forever mourn that day but we must remember that the actions of a few do not define a culture or religion. It is unfair to blame an entire society for the actions of a few extremists. Imagine how upset and cheated you would feel if you were generalized as a crook because of the few criminals on Wall Street or in the government.
Would we not react similarly? To try to keep our families safe and get to a place of sanctuary to rebuild a life and return to normalcy? If we were in distress, I am certain that the international community would not shut their doors on us. We must not be afraid to open our doors to refugees and be excited about the opportunity to turn someone’s life around. Only good can come from tearing down walls: new, rich cultural influences, more doctors, teachers, new technologies, more great minds working together to solve the world’s problems.
If you ask anyone living in America what their nationality is generally you will get an answer made up of many countries followed by, “yeah my grandparents are straight off the boat.” With the exception of Native Americans, we are all the product of immigrants and refugees. America is a nation built by those who left everything behind and pushed forward with a dream – for a better life and the perseverance to make it a reality. They are embarking on the biggest journey of their lives and need our support. You can call your New York State Assemblymember and Senator to ask them to pass a resolution to welcome refugees into New York State or volunteer to make refugees feel welcome to their new community with as little as a handshake. Look at this time in history from a perspective other than yours while sitting in a sturdy house, stomach full of food and no worries about your safety. Look at it from the perspective of the little kid who was separated from their family during the fighting and only wants to feel safe again and ask yourself: what would you want someone else to do for you?