Aylan Kurdi, Being Tripped Up, Counter-Cultural, Despotic Dictator, Human Spillage, Hungarian Journalist, Love and Justice, Numbed Anger, Practice Hospitality, Reduced to Smoke Stacks and Debris, Richest Nations who ignore the Refugees, Ruthless Tyrant, Syrian Refugees, The Day after 911, Washing up on Western Shores
There are few images more forlorn than seeing the three year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on “western” shores. Whatever “the west” has been doing till now in terms of Syria and ISIS amounts to bandaids on the wound the west itself has inflicted (during the perfect storm of war, culture, and religion). Refugee hardly seems adequate to define the nature of human spillage of the hell-on-earth from whence they escape.
We are filled with numbed anger, and clearer retrospective analysis about how western interference in Iraq became a historic turning point from one despotic dictatorship to an even more ruthless tyranny. It didn’t seem possible, when the metrics of geo-politics were about oil, or something. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a caricature of middle-east governance, but we could not imagine his replacement.
Nor could we imagine the largest human migration of refugees since the Second World War (I am in Canada as one of those from the post-war European migration). This migration has caught the west’s attention now that our conscience has been pricked by the drownings, and the overwhelming hordes who have tumbled on to our luxuriant laps.
Senseless Act of Tripping
Earlier this week numbed anger turned to bewildered outrage as Hungarian journalist Petra Laszlo is caught on camera tripping Syrian refugees (September 10, 2015):
“The video begins with hundreds of desperate migrants running across the Serbian border into Hungary, one step closer to a country that might shelter them. Many of these people have escaped from Syria, home to perhaps the world’s most devastating war, and just want to get past the crushing police presence at the border and into the European Union. Imagine witnessing all of that, and then doing what this camerawoman does in this 19 second video.”
For whatever reason, I imagined myself as the dad in this video – desperately trying to break for freedom and hope – from the horror of Syria/ISIS – only to be tripped up by this senseless act. I dare you to replay it a few times and put yourself there.
I wept over this… not over the photo of Aylan on the shore (the loneliness of someone’s son as if carefully put to sleep there; no foot prints by him on the virgin sands; one can only imagine the great terror of braving the escape and drowning – that appeared to be more hopeful than the great terror of staying in Syria).
More like the Tripper?
Then I remembered that I am more like the tripper than the trippee. And the onus is on me, and many like me (and you) who are now faced with the “what now” of people who have come to our doorstep as it were. In Canada, we know there is a big continent and a big ocean to protect us from the discomfort of human exiles who are literally hungry for food and shelter. We are faced with the realization that the vastness of our land and resources will accommodate the influx of people who never intended to come here, were their homeland at peace. We are also aware that they may bring with them the woundedness of violence, and ideas as counter-productive as those that created the environment for “Syria to happen” in the first place.
Meanwhile this misery happens during the Federal Election where politicians can’t help themselves but to manipulate it for their political ends: I’ll match your 10,000 refugees and raise you 20,000. It appears Harper has been out maneuvered to accept more refugees over the fabled concern for security (one of his big election issues). But his opponents play fast and loose with human misery, never having to contend with dealing with the reasons these people are refugees in the first place (I despise partisan politics).
Does it really matter that the nations beside Syria are neither welcoming nor capable of receiving these refugees? It is an empty lament to ask “where are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or the Unite Arab Emirates, among the richest nations on earth (what does it mean to be a neighbour anyways)? Does it really matter that these refugees and the many others from the entire region, from Iraq to across northern Africa, want to escape their “home?”
All that political sickness aside, we are called upon to practice hospitality. And we will. Hospitality is an expression of love-in-action – yes; but it is also, curiously enough, an expression of justice: Take a look at this link to Letters to the Exiles; note especially “The Economy of Order” and the relationship of hospitality to justice.
Here’s a link to the Application for Refugee Sponsorship. I suggest you get together with likeminded people who will count the financial and relational costs of sponsoring a refugee family – for – aside from the personal $25,000 estimated it will cost the first year, it is the relational commitment to befriending and helping them transition.
I am aware that I am posting this the day after September 11, that day known as the number 911. I remember where I was that morning, and how stunned I was by the inexplicable ruin of it all. And, I have watched with equal horror, at how 911 had become the justification for retaliatory terror that could never hope to erase this day or its waste. I write to this in “Reduced to Smoke Stacks and Debris” – as a lamenting prayer and confession.
Addendum – December 17:
Today the BBC reported “They made the world care – but where are they now?” There is a touching interview with Ossama Abdul Mohsen – the man tripped up by the journalist:
For him, the most striking thing about Europe is freedom: “Freedom of thought… the complete freedom of expression. Being a free man is a very beautiful sensation. I was also surprised by the warm Spanish welcome. They all wanted to offer help and advice. This has made a huge difference to me.”