Article Op-Ed

A Human, Not Syrian, Crisis

A Human, Not Syrian, Crisis

Author Abdullah Budeir by

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Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis

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Nothing feels more painful than realizing that the world is content to watch you suffer. Nothing feels more unsettling than the apathy of the world as your baby daughter bleeds to death from a civilian airstrike. Nothing rips the heart more than knowing your suffering is just a statistic, a news report.

We live in a world where these horrors are realities. We live in a world that would rather watch the tears of Syrian mothers carve riverbeds into their cheeks than threaten its economic or political interests by intervening.

This incredibly selfish and short sighted view is grounded in a diseased ignorance, a primitive conception of the world where everyone focuses on their own good, and blinds themselves to the suffering of others. This line of thinking is not only flawed. It's fatal.

Imagine for just a moment that it’s you waking up at three in the morning to the sound of roaring military jets. Imagine that it’s you having to comfort your little brother as his arms shake in terror. Imagine it’s you suffering.

With the ubiquity of social media, this suffering, this terror is better documented than anytime in history, and yet the cries of the helpless fall on increasingly deaf ears. Their pain is dismissed as a localized issue, a civil war, yet no one ever stops to question how maiming innocent civilians in their homes counts as part of a “civil” war. If the moral argument, the suffering of millions, isn't enough, the recent flood of refugees across international borders should suffice to underscore the global nature of this crisis.

This isn't simply a Syrian crisis, it’s a human crisis, and it has become a moral crisis because we’ve allowed our apathy and cowardice as a nation to stop us from acting decisively in the interests of justice.

Before the war, I visited my relatives in Syria and witnessed the indulgent hospitality of its people. Shopkeepers insisted that I “sample” their sweets time and time again, families never tired of serving elaborate dinners, and passersby greeted me in each alleyway.

Our selfish world, beyond any sense of morality, has now left these selfless people at the doorstep.

I’ve watched my relatives scan the news reports anxiously for updates on their beloved country, their loved ones, and I can’t help but feel felt their confusion, their pain.

“Why won’t the world help these refugees? Are dollars really more important than human lives?”

These questions run through our minds.

Having to witness the heartless apathy of contemporary political demagoguery compounds the pain.

“We shouldn't accept refugees,” politicians yell as the cheering of their crowds haunts the ears of stranded Syrian families. “We need to worry about ourselves.”

This message of nonnegotiable self interest is laughably ironic. If we stand by as others suffer, we establish a precedent of shameless apathy and ultimately endanger our future well being.

Sheltering the Syrian refugees, in fact, positions us for long term success because, in reality, it’s neither our borders, nor our colors that define us. We are one race, humanity, and if we forsake that identity for political and monetary gains we’ll find ourselves deprived of both.

Yes, sheltering refugees will cost money, but it will save our integrity, our humanity. We no longer live in a world where it’s acceptable to bury our heads in the sand hoping to drown out the pleas of the afflicted. We risk suffocation at the hands of our prejudices, cowardice and ignorance if we fail to rise above them.

It’s time for us, as a nation, to renounce demagoguery, to overcome ignorance, to defy our own selfishness. It’s time for us to embody a welcoming spirit, the spirit Emma Lazarus evoked in her famous poem, The New Colossus:

​​"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

It’s time for us to welcome the Syrian refugees.

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