Friday, November 20, 2015

Refusing to help is an act of terror

"In everyday thought about especially complex and emotionally charged situations oversimplified generalizations are apt to be actively treasured."

- Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and the Minotaur

Terrorism and atrocities against humanity is not new. How it will end will have a lot to do with how we respond to hatred, terror, cruelty and murder.

John Spencer, a teacher in Arizona, posted on Facebook:
After a tragedy, I get why some people will feel angry. Others will feel sad. Still others will feel scared. Many will feel all of the above. But my hope is that, in the midst of all those feelings, we choose love instead of xenophobia.
Xenophobia [zen-uh-foe-be-uh]

In his book The Alphabet of the Human Heart, Matthew Johnstone reminds us:
From Matthew Johnstone's Alphabet of the Human Heart
Xenophobia is an ugly word. Xeno means foreigner. Phobia is fear. 
Together they mean racism, bigotry, intolerance, injustice. 
Yet, if we embrace the differences in this world, the world looks different. 
More interesting, more rewarding, more colourful.

While its true that terror is scary and can induce panic, we must remind ourselves that this is what terrorists want. We must resist the natural urge of fearing fear itself. Paul Krugman writes:
The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. And it’s crucial to realize that there are multiple ways the response can go wrong.
When horrific things happen, it's tempting to focus on who to hate and who to be scared of -- the real challenge, however, is to figure out who to love and who to help. Those of us who are following the news of terror from the safety of our devices need to spend less time pondering policies that further isolate and ignore refugees who are fleeing for their family's lives and more time figuring out how we can help.

Constructing xenophobic walls to keep people out of our privileged paradise will teach the next generation of children that we could have helped but chose not to. This is precisely what terrorists want.

"It is not the refugee outflows that cause terrorism; it is terrorism, tyranny and war that create refugees," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gueterres.

Refusing to help those who need it the most is an act of terror.

We must refuse to give in to fear.

We must reject xenophobia.

Antoine Leiris lost his wife Helene in the Bactaclan theatre in Paris. In his Facebook tribute to his wife and challenge to her killers, Antoine writes:
I will not give you the gift of hating you. You have obviously sought it, but responding to it with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what your are. 
You want me to be afraid? To cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens? To sacrifice my freedom for security?  
You lost. Same player. Same game.
A dead baby becomes the most tragic symbol
yet of the Mediterranean refugee crisis.
Refugees are people. 

People who are trying to save their families from the terror and cruelty that we would all run from. We have a responsibility and moral obligation to help refugees because refusing to help is an act of terror.

And we must be better than that.

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