"In the end only kindness matters." It's not merely a phrase or tag line for my blog. I care about humanity, and hope to leave a positive legacy and impact on the world during my lifetime, no matter how small. Almost everywhere I travel, I try to understand the humans I encounter, their place in the world, and how they got there. This was the case during my trip to Israel last year, where so many of my travel companions visited only holy sites. While in East Jerusalem, I left the group to visit a refugee camp. It wasn't filled with Syrians, of course, but Palestinians who basically live in dire circumstances, and garbage filled plots. This experience changed my life, and the emotions that overcame me during the visit will never be accurately conveyed in words. It was there I met the young girl pictured in this photo, and many others like her, who are basically born into chaos and instability. Perhaps I'll tell you their story later this week, but I just want to say a few words about the current refugee crisis.
Last week, I grew tired of watching media coverage of this event. I don't support the decision of the press to publish the photo of that poor drowned child, Aylan, on the Turkish shore. In my view, it's mere exploitation, and shows a lack of respect for the family. The purpose of it I'll never understand, except to note that in today's society provocative images feed mass culture and generate hysteria, for both better and worse. Each night on various American channels, we see dramatic stories about the crisis, pulling on viewers' heart strings by showing weeping mothers with children desperately clinging to their arms. Weary fathers and young men stepping out of boats and flimsy rafts, their feet now on safer shores after harrowing sea journeys. Angry old women screaming about abuse by Hungarian and other European border officials. Many of the refugees seemingly unwilling to settle for anything other than Germany or Britain - two of the most prosperous countries in the EU. This is the most perplexing part of the current situation for me. Having personally worked with refugees and asylum seekers in my legal career, I can say that most who are desperate to leave behind the horrors of their homeland will seek refuge in the first country in which they cross. They don't make demands, or pick and choose the country into which they will assimilate. Their new home is almost always the first foreign soil on which they step foot - either by land, sea, train or other transport. The goal - to make it to ANY country that is safer and better than the one from which they fled. The current crisis is unique to some extent, as Hungary and other countries have made it clear the refugees aren't wanted and there's no ability to accommodate them.
What's the answer? No one can know, not even the leaders of nations who are partly to blame for the crisis, including the EU and America. Russia also, as Putin has openly admitted supporting the Assad regime. I've read a lot of posts about this situation on LiveJournal, and hundreds of comments. Xenophobia runs rampant, complete intolerance and even a gleeful attitude by some that Europe and America is getting what they deserve. Yet almost none of the commentors offer any type of solution. The crisis is here, staring Europe and the West in the face, and inaction isn't a viable option at this point. The influx of humanity is too large.
I've said over and over again that I'm very sympathetic to immigrants, and civil societies should make efforts to accommodate refugees, but there are limits. And this is the dilemma. The intricate balance between true humanitarian relief, and allowing millions of free loaders into a system that will eventually feed them money, medicine and other social benefits. Or, even worse, allowing a select few to seek refuge, only to have them turn in the future and try to annihilate the citizens of the very country which took them in. We've seen it before right here on U.S. soil, with the Chechen bombers.
I've noticed that many people in comments to other posts focus on the fact that the majority of those crossing are young men. Where are all the women and children, they say? To me, this isn't so unusual. Young men come, they have the ability, strength and capacity to work and earn in a new country. Poor families don't have the financial resources to pay smugglers to escort entire families. Once the men are settled, and especially if they are able to obtain some type of asylum protection, there is a solid basis to bring the rest of the family over legally under most Western systems.
Then, I see photos like this in the press. Young men taking selfies after arrival on the Greek shoreline. I'm sorry, but true refugees are typically terrified and would never contemplate such action. Or, has social media and technology made the world so narcissistic that even those fleeing war and tragedy need to post selfies on Facebook? It's completely unfathomable to me. I'm a tolerant person, but such images cause a lot of doubt in my mind about the plight of some of the people demanding entry into Europe. This group of men - they are clearly economic migrants. Not refugees. There's a huge difference. Both under the law, and from a humanitarian perspective.
What do you think? How should Europe handle the crisis? What will America do? Open the flood gates and allow asylum petitions for the Syrians? I would offer my opinion, but honestly I have no idea how to handle this political and humanitarian crisis. Offer your opinions, but please be respectful in the comments.