22 November, 2015

My final word on refugees (I hope)

The Breadbin has gone cold these last two weeks out of respect for my mother, and also because grieving is hard work that doesn't leave much room for extraneous feelings. What feelings do break through are strong enough to overpower rational thought, and pervasive enough that sometimes it's hard to tell what's grief and what really is a reaction to the situation at hand. Pile on the kind of unthinking, unfeeling hatred that has infected our media, especially the social variety of late...and it's just too much.

It has led me to unfollow almost all the media I'd subscribed to on Facebook, and it's also led to a few unfriendings of family members, on the grounds that I don't need that kind of poison in my world, just now especially.

It's been shifting into (what I fervently hope is) high gear for about a month now, and at the risk of invoking Godwin...it reminds me of nothing so much as the period leading up to Kristillnacht. The sentiment is there in spades: all it would take is a demagogue Trumping up the hatred that already exists. Go here and note the hate crimes that have already occurred. It doesn't take much to fan flames. A saving grace is that there are many people, less vocal than the haters but more numerous, who refuse to be manipulated by the turbulent tides of frothy bile sloshing around.

What really astounds me is that people go out of their way to make things up. Of course they all spread like wildfire--I've been duped myself into unwittingly spreading false information more than once--most recently that Steve Jobs was the son of an Syrian refugee. (He was the son of a Syrian immigrant who fled BEIRUT... but that's not quite the same thing, is it?)

All of the Paris terrorists were either French or Belgian. You don't hear people clamouring to ban immigration from France or Belgium, do you?

While we can quibble over semantics, the fact remains that very few refugees intend to harm us, and those that do are almost invariably found out in the vetting process.

Which brings us to Canada's pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

This is only fourteen percent more than Harper, to his credit, intended to accommodate. What's different is the timeline. Harper intended a two year process; Trudeau promised two and a half months. It sounds drastic, chaotic, certain to fail.

It isn't.

The vast majority of the refugees Canada is proposing to take in are currently living in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These are not the people tramping across Europe, the ones dismissed as "economic migrants" (as if there's something wrong with that).  They have been pre-screened by the UN. They will be screened again by Canada prior to resettlement. In the coming days, you will hear Trudeau try to allay fears that these people are all ISIS shadow agents coming to behead us.

He won't succeed, any more than this blog will succeed at allaying fear. Fear is an emotion; it resists sober analysis. John Michael Greer, linked in my sidebar, has an exceptional article on how this works (in a completely different context). Put facts in front of fear, and they will be mocked, denigrated, and if all else fails, utterly ignored.

Given that these fears exist and are fuelling an ugly anti-Muslim backlash (and not just anti-Muslim: a Hindu temple was vandalized in my city recently...come on, bigoted troglodytes, at least get the religion you hate right)...it would be politically prudent for Trudeau to slow down.

I doubt he will: he's caught up in first-year political zeal and feels he can't break a single election promise; he also probably figures, and probably correctly, that an unpopular measure like this will be all but forgotten by the time re-election rolls around.

Hopefully the hate will be all but forgotten too.


karen said...

Hi Ken,

I am very sorry to hear about your mom. You wrote very beautifully about her. My thoughts are with you.

I too am disheartened by all of this, and am quite astounded by the vitriol on my Facebook page. Like you I am afraid at what it seems to point to, and I wish adamantly that reason and kindness might prevail. On the other hand, some of what I am seeing and hearing makes me think mere extinction might be too good for us. I used to think people were mostly okay, with a few vile exceptions. Now I wonder if we are not vile with a few decent exceptions.

I am not sure that the 25000 refugees before the end of the year was ever actually acheivable, and so I am not going to get bent out of shape about that particular promise if he doesn't make good on it in time. I think getting as many people out of there and into something that resembles a stable life as quickly as possible is a very good idea, though. We have a group of over 300 here in ATMON raising money and creating a community for some refugees and I suspect that is going on all over the country. I think that Mr Trudeau would do well to let these communities shoulder some of that work.

Ken Breadner said...

Thank you, karen. It's hard. It's compounded by life that refuses to stop dealing crap at us just because someone else died. But then it's made easier by the support we have received, which is truly gratifying.
I kinda hope Trudeau *does* break that promise. It was a stupid promise: a few extra weeks or months won't make that big a difference. That said, you're right: they've suffered enough as it is. Glad to hear your community is stepping up.
Hope all is well in your world.