I don't think I should write this. But, I'm far away, so who cares.
Um, America? Since when do you care about refugees? This whole uproar of "I can't believe my governor won't accept you! I stand for love!" seems so incredibly disingenuous given the lack of care and support the refugees in my home community of Austin are generally afforded. There are Iraqi refugees, Burmese refugees, Eritrean asylum seekers, undocumented Central Americans who, because of a technicality, will never be classified as refugees but have lived the same lives and THERE ARE ALREADY SYRIANS IN AUSTIN. Go love them. ACT your protest, don't Tweet about it. Everyone is (evidently) reacting with horror at the completely predictable right-wing knee-jerk response of security first. I'm not surprised in the least. If you are surprised that the U.S., that Europe, would treat refugees poorly, then you simply haven't been paying attention. If you are outraged, you better damn well be doing something about it.
Do you know how many times I have had to explain to potential employers and to Medicaid hotline operators what a refugee even IS? How they are legally defined, have green cards and what protections they are offered? And that they are not "illegal" (side note: no human being is illegal. Think about that any time you break a law - does that strip you of personhood or make you an "illegal" person for smoking pot, insider trading or talking on your cell phone in a school zone? I think I'm talking to specific people in my head as I write this.)
Do you know the times my refugee friends have lamented to me about being ignored or treated as a charity case by their friends and fellow church members? Or being used for their stories by well-meaning people who use their stories for their own gain or Instagram posts? People know the difference between true compassion and friendship and being paraded around as a token. My dear friend, an Iraqi woman, cracks me up when she starts comparing America to Afghanistan. Too often, she has seen people in her community mistreated, given inadequate preventative healthcare, made to feel inferior. I just laugh when she says "What is this, America? This is Afghanistan!" with indignation at some slight, no matter how minor. "I'm serious, habibti, this is Afghanistan!" It's a cruel irony that she has been invited to America, given a literal invitation and a loan to get a flight here, and then ignored by bureaucracy and shamed by HEB pharmacists for her accent and ignorance of the healthcare system. What is this, America? The refugees we have already accepted in the United States by an act of Congress are still waiting to be accepted by acts of love from Americans. Continual, steady, difficult, messy, unrewarding acts of love. Here's the thing though: they will look different from you. They will speak languages you don't understand. Their food will smell (this has actually been brought up to me as an excuse why a volunteer couldn't stick around and help in someone's home. I can't even). They might - gasp! - be Muslims with deep, rewarding faiths that challenge your notions of yourself if you don't believe the same thing. They will live in neighborhoods that you haven't been to because you always assumed you would get mugged. It will take up your time and you will sit in traffic for hours. You will feel like you are getting nowhere for years. You still want the US to invite Syrians into America, into Texas? Are you going to do something about it?
The easiest thing would be to encourage people to donate or volunteer with your local refugee agency or nonprofit (like Caritas, RST, Multicultural Refugee Coalition, Center for Survivors of Torture). There are women and children to be visited in detention centers mere miles from Austin. Or, you could do a few things for me. My friends need help finding jobs, writing resumes, figuring out how to apply for community colleges. They need rides to therapy appointments. They call me to see if I can help them get rid of bedbugs and roaches because their apartment managers prey on their ignorance of the system and don't provide adequate services. Their birthdays deserve to be celebrated, their children need to be read with and can someone please drive one of my students to Planned Parenthood so that she isn't pregnant at 17? I'm serious. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's talk. There is shit to be done and I do not have time for you or your lame ass Facebook posts.
The girls I joked about teaching sex ed to on a previous blog just got picked up and they are in detention, so class is cancelled tonight. Maybe that's why I'm in a bad mood. Human rights abuses, violence, and ignorance continues to pile up in many communities worldwide. If you are lost in your outrage or not knowing what to do, no one is going to come in after you. You need to find your way out by yourself.