Saturday, November 21, 2015

A house divided against itself...

I assume everyone recognizes the famous line from President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War: A house divided against itself cannot stand. Today our nation is again divided against itself…or as we say in modern terminology, polarized. It’s all over the question of welcoming Syrian refugees. Many remind us that we are a country of immigrants, we have a history of welcoming refugees. Others fear that Syrians will bring terrorists that will attack us. Some even say that President Obama is a Muslim, bent on bring terrorists in to destroy the country.

I’ve been involved in a Facebook discussions of a different nature. A friend of mine, a man whose mind and thinking I admire much, is opposed to helping refugees for a different reason. A disabled veteran from the Vietnam War, he thinks we should not help refugees if we don’t take care of our veterans first. He has a valid point—we have something like 50,000 homeless veterans, many others who need medical care and don’t easily get it from VA centers and hospitals. Apparently the charge to veterans depends on the degree of disability, so for many VA care is not free. Congress constantly threatens to cut veteran benefits in the name of saving the budget. Makes you want to ask how many of those Congressmen served in the armed forces. I fully agree with presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders: if we can afford to send men and women to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home.

On the other hand, there are the thousands who are fleeing Syria in fear of their lives and the lives of their children. Far from being terrorists, they are trying to escape the very kind of terror that hit Paris last week. They have seen men, women and children beheaded in the name of Islam. They are giving up their homeland, family ties, security, all that we take for granted, to flee to safety. Shall we turn them away from the Statue of Liberty which says, “Give me your tired, your poor….”

The discussion got pretty heated on Facebook. One woman, who apparently believes that Obama is a Muslim and all Syrians are terrorists, elevated the discussion by calling me a moron. I will not respond in kind, though the temptation is strong. If you want to know more truth about the refugee situation, please read

I don’t understand why it has to be an either/or situation. Ten thousand refugees are not that many to absorb into the fabric of this country, and as the Web site above tells you, the mechanics for doing it, including strong vetting, are in place. In a country with resources as rich as ours, can we not take care of both problems? (Aside: someone pointed out to me that many of the homeless don’t want homes and confinement—but they still need medical care; with good care they might once again become productive citizens). It’s an easy cop-out but I blame the polarized politics of our nation for this dilemma.

I don’t know what I want to urge my fellow citizens to do—I’ve never had much faith in writing your Congressmen, because I believe their minds are already made up. But do what you can—volunteer at veterans’ shelters and VA hospitals, be informed about the truth of Syrian refugees and don’t give in to fear-mongering techniques. Keep an open mind.



Anonymous said...

Tell Jordan the deal if off. Syrians will now live at the house; after all charity begins at home.

Judy Alter said...

Guessing who this is from. Love irony, sarcasm, whatever.