It’s not my usual post. This sums up what I’m feeling these days.
It’s been a week since the tragic, terrifying events in Paris. Just over a week since the devastation in Beirut. Days since the carnage in Nigeria, and hours since a bloody hostage-taking in Mali. And intermingled with our horror at these and countless other events, is a surge of fear, mistrust and hostility for Syrian refugees who are attempting to flee their own hell.
My mind is reeling at what I’m reading and hearing.
US politicians threatening to block Syrian refugees from entering their states.
GOP candidate for President of the United States Donald Trump talking about setting up a Muslim database, issuing special identification to Muslims, or even shutting down mosques altogether.
People signing petitions to keep Syrian refugees out of their cities.
And so much hate online, to the point where I can’t read any comments at all any more.
I was talking to a friend about this the other night, and we shared our thoughts on whether this hatred has been here all along, or if this is something new.
It’s not that that xenophobia, racism, intolerance and hatred haven’t been around since the dawn of time. The biggest difference for me is that not only is the horror and chaos happening before our eyes, but the vitriol is also immediate thanks to the Internet and social media.
As a result, we’re seeing fewer discussions based on an educated perspective, just heated arguments fueled by fear and ignorance. That scares me.
Please understand – I’m not a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ as someone called me with much scorn recently. I’m a practical person who believe in keeping our country and all countries safe and secure by doing everything we can to prevent groups like ISIS from infiltrating our borders.
But I also believe in compassion, in opening our hearts and our countries to people who have had their lives destroyed.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and perhaps this opinion could result in some anger directed my way. That’s fine. I can handle that.
But let me leave you with a poem that I have shared a few times, and that continues to shake me to the core no matter how often I read it. I hope it opens some minds and hearts.
And if you’ve had the patience to read all the way to the end of this, thank you for reading
Home, by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.
your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.
it’s not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did –
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.
you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.
no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive
and you are greeted on the other side
go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage –
look what they’ve done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?
the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child’s body
in pieces – for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.
no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don’t know what