Imagine for a second that you’re a parent (perhaps you are one). Now imagine living in a country where conditions are so dangerous that both you and your child (or children) are put at risk every single day. Imagine living in a place where war isn’t just some abstract concept or idea happening in some faraway place, but exists right at your doorstep. Food is scarce, medical supplies are hard to come by, and death isn’t just something that happens to your sleep as a result of old age. Death is a daily occurrence that claims your neighbors, your friends, and your family. What would you do? What would you do to protect your children? Would you pack what little you own and take them to a safer place? A place that could provide hope? A place that could give your child a fighting chance?
I’m a parent. I have a four year old little girl and there is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do to keep her safe. But I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m a white, heterosexual, middle class man born in the United States of America in the 20th century. I won the human lottery. The country in which I live is designed to ensure that I succeed. I have been given every opportunity to live a good life. So I realize that I don’t have the same concerns that much of the rest of the world has. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will come from, having access to clean water, or bombs falling in my front yard. I have a good paying job, a roof over my head, wonderful schools in my neighborhood, and good health insurance. I live in an area with some of the best hospitals in the world. I can go see a movie any time I like. I can plan vacations and go out to dinner to places that serve food from anywhere in the world. All of these things I can do in relative safety. But I am lucky. I work really hard but I didn’t earn most of these things. I was born into them. Not everyone is so lucky.
Thousands of miles away there is a dad just like me except he was born in Syria. Maybe he even has a wife and a four year old daughter just like I do. Maybe his daughter also loves to sing and draw and dance just like my daughter does. The difference is that many of his friends, family, and neighbors have been killed in bombings. The city he and his family used to live in has been reduced to rubble, the water supplies damaged, homes destroyed, medical supplies limited. He and his family now live in a tent in a refugee camp trying to decide whether to make the dangerous trip to Europe or one of the other few countries taking displaced Syrians. No matter where they go they will be strangers in a strange land. Their true home only sustained through memories. Why was I so lucky and he so unlucky?
An example closer to home would be the drug wars currently being waged in Mexico. Right now Mexico is the largest provider of heroine to the United States. As a result of our drug addiction, cities and towns once seen as desirable vacation destinations are now war zones where drug cartels battle one another for territory. Families have abandoned their homes and businesses as homicide rates have skyrocketed. The government has attempted to push back only to have politicians assassinated as the cartels attempt to place their own candidates in positions of power. Citizens who were once farmers and ranchers have armed themselves and formed self-defense groups to protect themselves from the crossfire between gangs. The police are often either paid off by the local cartels or lack the resources to help. Murders rarely result in arrests much less convictions. Often investigations don’t even take place. You are on your own. What would you do to protect your family? Would you stay and join one of the self-defense groups? Would you pack up your belongings and move to a safer place? What would you do to protect your family from that sort of nightmare? Why was I so lucky and they were not?
There are many people in the world attempting to escape the very horrors I just described. Things we as Americans have never had to worry about and hopefully never will. Immigration is no doubt a complex issue. As with so many other important issues it is not simply colored in shades of black and white – but shades of grey. The part of the debate that is not so complex is how we treat others – especially those less fortunate than ourselves. We have a duty to our fellow human beings that extends beyond borders and flags and patriotism. We have a duty to provide safe shelter to those who seek it. We were born lucky. Others were no so fortunate.
Ask yourself what you’d do if you were in their shoes. What would you do to keep your loved ones safe?
For me it’s quite simple.
I’d walk to the ends of the earth.