It would appear that despite the best efforts of America’s fearmongers, some people still insist on seeing Syrian refugees as human beings, not poisoned Skittles. Today, we have three cases of Americans who have this weird idea that the country’s values involve more than just fear and paranoia about all the scary foreigns who want to kill us and destroy Our Way Of Life:
If Jews Aren’t Afraid Of Syrian Refugees Then WTF IS Donald Trump’s Problem?
Volunteers at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland, are sponsoring a Syrian family who have been resettled in the area. These folks don’t seem the least bit terrified the family will turn out to be terrorists. As part of a program run by the Jewish nonprofit HIAS (one of those groups that’s grown beyond its original acronym — formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, now assisting refugees of all backgrounds), Temple Shalom committed to sponsoring the Qabbanis, a Syrian family of six (last name changed for privacy).
Congregation member Karen Green was in charge of meeting the family at DC’s Reagan National airport:
The congregation furnished the apartment, stocked the pantry, and made the family a welcome meal for their first night in Maryland.
“We have little teams for each thing that we committed to do. There were half a dozen of us setting up the apartment over the last few days,” Green said. Altogether, they have a team of around twenty committed volunteers already lined up.
“We will help with transportation and conversational English, until the parents can get enrolled in English classes and maybe even beyond. Things like babysitting while the parents are taking their English placement test or getting their social security cards.”
The congregation also fitted out the apartment with helpful little cards taped to everything, labeled in English and Arabic to help with the transition:
Marilyn Ripin, another congregant, researched traditional Syrian recipes, so that their first meal in their new home would be something familiar. They made everything vegetarian, so that it would be halal. Green likened it to preparing a kosher meal, where going vegetarian is also an option if people are particularly observant.
“Tomorrow we will go to the LSS/NCA office and they’ll start on their paperwork with their caseworker. And we’ll probably go get a SIM card for their phone, so that they can communicate with their family, wherever they are. That seems to be people’s first priority when they arrive.”
And so on, down to helping the family figure out taking the bus, banking, finding the local library. These folks don’t appear to be terrified at all. In fact, Green had just one warning for other congregations considering sponsoring a Syrian refugee family. Be ready to find out people are more generous than the Fear-N-ParanoiaPlex might lead you to believe:
We got so many donations, we probably could have furnished three apartments.” They wound up giving some furniture donations to another family when they could not fit it all into the apartment. “And we’ve gotten a lot of gift cards too. People are generous.”
We’re guessing very few precincts in Chevy Chase were likely to vote for Donald Trump anyway.
I’m Not Crying. You’re Crying.
Then there’s six-year-old Alex from New York, who wrote a letter to the president after seeing a photo of Omran Daqneesh, the little boy who survived an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, and was pulled from the rubble of his family’s house:
President Obama read Alex’s letter in a speech to the United Nations earlier this week, then posted to Facebook a video of Alex reading his letter:
Alex is a pretty good kid, is what we think. Also, since we’re in danger of slipping over into bathos here, we should point out that however sweet his proposal to bring Omran over to Alex’s house where he can borrow Alex’s bike and play with Alex’s sister’s toys, that would be kidnapping, since Omran’s parents survived the bombing (his 10-year-old brother died). But we bet Alex and his parents could help sponsor the whole family.
We’ll risk throwing a big downer into this inspiring story of an amazing little kid who wants his country to do the right thing, because it’s worth remembering that lots of Syrian children didn’t become worldwide icons, but need help all the same. That’s why we can’t surrender to fear. At least not if we want to stay human.
Let’s Think Seriously About Saving People’s Liveson his Tumblr, and Kid Zoom read it aloud to me Thursday night while I was avoiding work. It feels like a useful follow-up to Evan’s thinky piece on Donald Trump, racism, and “our way of life”:
Democracy and humanity and being a decent human being all come with some risks. If you’d like to invoke Anne Frank’s “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart” right now, that’s fine with us. It would be a shame to turn this country, a country with terrific people like Karen Green and Alex in New York and Eli Bostick, over to a bunch of fear-filled racist cowards like Donald Trump. We live in a much better America than that.