Political posturing, emotional rants won’t help refugees

Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in their country, cross the border into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

It’s difficult to say if the world we live in is any more polarized than that of the past, or if social media has simply magnified the chasms that exist, leaving the appearance of a stark black and white realm when reality has always been varying shades of gray.

Take the Syrian refugee crisis. While many US governors practically tumbled over each other in the race to demand that no Syrian refugees be allowed to settle in their states, some on the other side were insistent that any denial of US asylum was outright racism.

Both are unfortunate and ill-considered stands. The first I attribute to political posturing. Certainly, it’s not possible or wise to allow a mass influx of immigrants from any nation without proper vetting. That doesn’t mean you shut your borders, however. You certainly don’t rope off your borders to individuals from a specific country because of the actions of one or a few, or because the majority of the individuals in that country are of a specific religion.

Humanitarian crises demand extraordinary responses, and the US and other Western nations should step up efforts to aid those in need while ensuring the safety of all concerned. Simply slamming the door shut on those either forced from their country or who have left out of fear is not an appropriate response.

On the other hand, we have those who misrepresent the past to manipulate individuals’ feelings in a bid to push an agenda.

Consider this headline from a distasteful story that attacks those in the US for failing to open its arms to all Syrian refugees, no questions asked: “Anne Frank Literally Died Because of America’s Anti-Refugee Stance”.

John Prager, writing for the online publication Addicting Info, states that Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father, was denied a visa by the United States, preventing he and his family from escaping the Nazi noose that was tightening around Jews in Europe.

The Franks were captured by the Nazis in Amsterdam in 1944 and Anne and most her family perished, with Anne and her sister Margot dying at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945. Because the US didn’t give the Franks a visa, it is responsible for the family’s death, Prager asserts.

While I find repugnant the attitude of politicians who flat-out refuse to take Syrian refugees, I also despise the above one-dimensional thinking that, in effect, calls today’s conservative US politicians “bigoted and hateful anti-Semit(es),” according to Prager’s article. (As Prager condescendingly points out, “Yes, conservatives, Arabs are Semitic people.)

The fact is, Anne Frank “literally” died because of the Nazis’ policy of exterminating Jews. American anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism in other countries, and a general unwillingness to open US borders to the tens of millions of other individuals who were displaced or endangered by the Nazis (and Soviets) is a sad reality of the 1930s and ’40s, and one hopes that today’s generation will not repeat the same mistakes.

But the US, for all its many flaws, was not “literally” responsible for the death of Anne Frank or other Jews who perished between 1933 and 1945.

We could have done more, much more, but we didn’t deploy Einsatzgruppen to kill hundreds of thousands throughout the Baltics and Eastern Europe, we didn’t set up concentration camps and death camps, and we didn’t transport millions in cattle cars from Nazi-created ghettos to those camps, where they were gassed or otherwise killed.

Ultimately, it was the US and other Allied nations that stopped the Nazi death machine.

Prager’s appeal to emotion doesn’t stand up under scrutiny, and it doesn’t help us solve the problem at hand.

(Top: Syrian refugees, fleeing violence in their country, cross the border into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq two years ago.)


6 thoughts on “Political posturing, emotional rants won’t help refugees

  1. Fair criticisms, CBC. Referencing the Anne Frank case to illustrate the effects of denying humanitarian aid or refugees status is one thing but the author goes way too far in his argument. That said if a small island nation on the north-western edge of Europe, one still suffering the effects of near socio-economic collapse, can take in several thousand refugees surely the United States can do similar. Or more. At the end of the day, the refugees are not the people with the guns – they are the ones fleeing the people with the guns.

    • Agreed, the US can and should step up, and I hope it will. But over-the-top rhetoric that demonizes political enemies serves no purpose and certainly sways no one. It only preaches to the choir and enables the writer to pat himself on the back and allows him to revel in the idea that he’s “done something.”

      There’s a middle ground between “no refugees get in” and the fallacy that “blocking refugees is akin to abetting genocide.”

      I would hope that we in the US would have learned from examples such as Rwanda, Cambodia, Uganda and the numerous other examples of individuals fleeing because of murder and chaos, and that we will step up and work to remedy the plight of those who find themselves displaced.

  2. Certainly much could be said about the polarization and lack of common sense that starts in the White House imo. My comment is this….we won’t secure the southern border in order to secure legit immigration so why in the world should we think the administration is capable of any sort of vetting the Syrians? I’m all for legit immigration and I’m all for taking in genuine refugees but I’m also for law and order and applied common sense. Rant over. Thank you for a thoughtful column. Wanna be President;-)

  3. Excellent analysis. What a great pit US politicians are so eager to score political points over the refugee crisis rather than addressing the faulty US foreign policy (ie their proxy war in Syria) that caused the refugee crisis to begin.

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