Yes, Americans Need to Care About Refugees

There may be no clearer-cut symbol of modern selfishness than the turning-away of refugees and immigrants.

Americans receive regular encouragement from our most cynical politicians and media outlets to believe the United States is the center of civilized life in the world. However, believing this requires us to turn a blind eye to true humanitarian disasters, some of which we’ve had a hand in perpetuating. Americans
are right to worry over their own political futures these days, but ignoring the needs of our neighbors is sure to land us in even greater peril.

There may be no clearer-cut symbol of modern selfishness than the turning-away of refugees and immigrants. In part because of the inherent incompatibility of our several major religions and their offshoots, and in part because of America’s vicious and self-serving foreign policy, the last three years have seen more
than 1 million human beings flee for their lives from portions of West Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

The small nation of Greece, thankfully, has spent several of the last few years exhibiting the sort of neighborly love that seems to have long ago evaporated from the world’s larger nations. Even though Greece is still weathering challenges of its own — most notably intense austerity for the working class following a healthy proliferation of billionaires — Grecians are demonstrating a caliber of moral leadership sorely lacking in much of the world. All told, Greece has received more than 60,000 political refugees. Of these, 18,000 are young people.

Young Refugees Matter

There are power structures in the world that seem to fear the coming-of-age of millennials — and the economic power they will soon wield — as one would an impending plague. Young people are more emotionally mature than their elders and, consequently, more likely to call out cruelty when they see it. They are also better-educated and more likely to research complex social and political issues. They are growing disenchanted with late-stage capitalism at a rapid clip — including the kind that lets homeless refugees languish in the name of economic nationalism and the sanctity of borders.

Young people who grow up outside the gilded gardens of American oligopoly — on the shores of their own troubled countries — do not grow up with their sense of ambition or world citizenship stunted. There is no American patent on exceptionalism. Indeed, to ignore the sweeping economic and social benefits of admitting refugees into one’s own country is to ignore reality itself.

Moreover, the impossible situation young refugees and migrants now find themselves in is not one that will unspool in isolation or fail to impact the world beyond the ground zeroes of sectarian and political conflict. Both the near and far future of civilized society is under threat from the politicization of human relocation.

The world’s up-and-coming generations find themselves in an extremely difficult spot. There are almost 7.5 billion humans alive in the world today and almost 2 billion of these are under the age of 25. Never before in the history of the world has our global population been so cleanly divided by age: Older folks are concentrated in richer countries and younger folks are concentrated in poorer, less-developed ones. Economists
understand that nationwide inequality of opportunity is a death knell for our quality of life. How much worse will the global version become if we leave it unchecked?

Suffice it to say, political refugees are not parasites looking for a handout. These are real people with real hopes and dreams about the future.

· Despite the overwhelming sense of persecution and discrimination across the globe, young refugees desire genuine human connections and acceptance.

· Young people across the world are growing disillusioned with the human rights principles of even the most established world superpowers.

· Refugees demonstrate most of the qualities we associate with rugged, individualistic American society, including a desire to engage in productive and profitable activities.

· Refugees are highly willing to learn new skills in order to acclimate to and thrive in their new homes.

These are ordinary human beings, with very human goals in life. Like any of the rest of us, they want a place to call home where they’re taken seriously, or at least not prejudged based on their country of origins. They want to leave violence, and the threat of violence, behind.

Dreaming of Deliverance

According to additional research by people who are not U.S. Congress members, 85 percent of refugees now living in Greece, Germany and the U.K. have firsthand experience of their home countries being bombed by foreign powers. The United States unrepentantly kills as many as 200 refugees in single afternoons in the countries we’re attempting to save from the militant groups we armed and the austerity politics we helped inspire.

Now, these young people have no choice but to flee to the very countries which conspired to transform their lives into living hells. Make no mistake: The futures of thousands and perhaps millions of promising young people are in the process of being destroyed, right before our eyes, by lines drawn on a map — and
by politicians who use them as weapons.

We’re not here to argue that improving the lives of refugees is going to be a straightforward affair. Nothing ever is. However, at a time when paying attention to the world beyond our heads feels like a luxury, awareness is a vital currency.

Comments (2)

What a well-written piece! Lest we forget, our ancestors were once refugees. This country is built by amazing contribution and love of those who called this country home.

Sam Jenkins
EditorSam Jenkins
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Steven Singer
EditorSteven Singer
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Pat Greer
EditorPat Greer
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