Feeling Like a Refugee

Recently, I’ve been seeing people on social media writing things like, “If Donald Trump gets elected, I’m moving to Canada.” Among my circle of friends, people often like to bash Trump, but I’m sure that many people are saying similar things about other candidates as well. And while many of these people are joking, I truly believe that at some level, their sentiment comes from a real place of concern. People are so upset about the possibility that a certain individual will become president that they are considering leaving the country.

And I don’t blame them. It’s not just the fact that there is a diverse plurality of opinions in politics. That was always the case. It’s the fact that those we once thought were the political outliers of society are actually much more numerous, much more passionate, and possibly much more dangerous than we realized. And one of these individuals is now on track to be the next commander-in-chief.

That can be unsettling.

If you feel even a little bit of that fear, I want to say something to you: Welcome to the rest of the world.

Because do you know what’s even more unsettling? Imagine this. What if this leader does not become the president through a democratic election, but he does so through a heavily rigged election (cf. Equatorial Guinean presidential election, 2002)? Or what if this leader is not a president restrained by a fair system of checks and balances, but he is a totalitarian dictator? Or what if this leader does not just verbally insult and demoralize fellow citizens but actually unleashes chemical gases and cluster bombs on them? Or what if the political conversations revolved not around whether or not we should go to war but how we can address an already-existing, seemingly-hopeless, civil war, in which radical religious groups are dividing and conquering the country with suicide bombs, beheadings, and crucifixions?

All of those hypothetical questions are real scenarios, playing out all around the world today. What many Americans are experiencing in this election year is just a small taste of what millions of people around the world consider to be normal. Many Americans, who have staunchly refused refugees for so long, are finally understanding just a little bit of what it’s like to be a refugee.

All around the world, people are fleeing their countries. People are fleeing the rampant homicide rates of Latin America. People are fleeing the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar. And people are fleeing the civil war in Syria.

Let’s take a look at Syria. 11 million people (about half of Syria’s population) have been killed or forced to flee from their homes. Of those, more than 4 million have registered or are awaiting registration with the United Nations High Commission of Refugees. How many has the US taken since the civil war started in 2011?

2,819.

Even Canada has already accepted 25,000. If Canada, a country with a tenth of our population, can accept 25,000, then I think it makes sense for the US to accept 250,000.

We in America may fear the outcome of our election. And rightly so. There is a lot at stake. But I hope that we can connect this fear with the fear in the hearts of millions of refugees who are looking for a home. I hope that we can channel some of this fear into a global compassion for refugees.


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