Life Is Not a Hamburger: Refugee Edition Part 1

Last week I noted how Heartbreaking Photographs Make Bad Foreign Policy. And sure enough, the usual suspects are calling for a more robust US intervention in the Syrian conflict. This has been heightened by reports that Russian Troops are fighting for the Assad Regime. (Why we should be angry that Russia has volunteered to become a lightning rod for Islamic terror is beyond me). What is troubling has been the reaction of many people who, while favoring military action, are refusing to accept the consequences of that policy. And by consequences I mean, the refugees.

There has been an outburst of conservative websites and groups of photographs and videos purporting to show the refugees are not actually refugees. The phrase that is used the most is “Trojan Horse”. The theory is these people are not fleeing the civil war, but are part of an invasion of muslims bent on conquering Europe, and then presumably, the United States. The “evidence” includes photographs of large amounts of men coming off trains in Germany without any women or children visible, the fact that many of the refugees are wearing nice clothes (Apparently, when you become a refugee, you must divest yourself of any Levi’s or other fashionable clothing you may possess and instead wear sackcloth and ashes) and have smartphones (I guess you’re supposed to trade those in for tin cans on wires), claims by ISIS/ISIL that it has sent terrorists in the teeming masses, etc. Even a story about a London based group that gives refugees the skills and training to repair bicycles has become “proof” of this supposed invasion. There are even claims that, Aylan Kurdi, the little boy in the photos whose washed up on the shore of Turkey wasn’t really a refugee fleeing ISIS.

I read these things and I must resist the urge to scream, “ARE YOU [EXPLETIVE REDACTED] KIDDING ME?”

One of my high school biology teacher’s favorite phrases was “Life is not a hamburger. You can’t have it your way.” I think that phrase should become a mantra repeated to the “Bomb, bomb Iran” crowd: You can’t go around thumping your chest, demanding military action be taken without accepting the consequences, the good and the bad. And a bad consequence of dropping bombs, no matter how noble or worthwhile the reason, is it tends to cause innocent people to lose their homes, livelihoods, and sometimes their lives. The idea that somehow they should just stay put while everything around them is exploding is not just stupid and ignorant, it is a sign of some serious cognitive dissonance.

Seriously, for those of you who are all for bombing the ever living crap out of a place to kill a bunch of people and don’t you think that has some sort of knock-on effect? I realize we have smart bombs, but they ain’t smart enough to differentiate between a terrorist and a civilian. The best a smart bomb can do is aim itself to the general area of where the baddie is holed up. This is a vast improvement since World War II when we had to level entire cities. Now we can blow up just the building. But if the terrorist is on the second floor of a five story apartment building, everyone living above and below him, regardless of their culpability, is also going to be caught in the blast. Many will probably be dead. And those that aren’t are now homeless.  And that means they have to go somewhere.They are now displaced. And another term for displaced persons is refugee.

There is also this odd belief that only poor people become refugees. Middle Class people will also suffer from the bombings and the war as it wipes out homes and businesses. You may be a very successful lawyer or doctor, but when your home is destroyed or your local neighborhood power plant is obliterated, you are going to have to leave with whatever you’re wearing.

I see jeans. They mustn’t be real refugees

And oh, by the way, you do realize Western Culture is ubiquitous, right? American capitalism is the predominant economic model on the planet. We sell everything to anyone. Levi’s and Reebok sell products in the Midwest and Southern United States, but also the Middle East, Southeast Asia, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, etc. So really, is it any surprise that people fleeing their homes are garbed in western attire? Or do expect them to stop and dress in what we consider to be appropriate Middle Eastern clothing?It’s as if our views of what refugees must look like are being dictated by some strange iteration of Mr. Blackwell.

These French children are too well heeled to be refugees in WW1. Must be part of a Trojan Horse plot.
These French children are too well heeled to be refugees in WW1. Must be part of a Trojan Horse plot.

By that logic, it also means they must shed themselves of modern technology, no matter how commonplace. Cellphones have become the primary means of communications around the world. As of 2012, 8% of the Middle East population had cellphones. While that may not seem to be a lot, it was almost double the number of phones from the previous year and the estimates in 2013 was a 39% increase by 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa (the other main source of refugees), cell phone penetration is even greater, with some predicting almost every African will have a cellphone by 2017.

And this idea that training refugees to have serviceable skills is somehow indicative that they have no need to flee from Syria is… well, it’s just insane. A lot of the same people who think having refugees become mild-mannered bicycle repairmen is wrong are the same lot bitching about migrants getting government benefits. If refugees can’t work, then they’ll be on the Dole. Why not give them skills so they can earn their own living, pay taxes and bitch about those lazy so and so’s just like everyone else. Instead, there is this odd Catch-22: We don’t want them getting government benefits but we don’t want them to have the ability to provide for themselves. In the immortal words of Zoolander’s Mugatu, “Doesn’t anybody notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

Let’s be clear. I said last week and I still maintain,  most of these refugees should be going to other muslim nations. As the Spectator observed, Arab and Muslim nations traditionally invoke the concept of “Ummah” or brotherhood whenever the US or Western Europe or Israel does something in the Middle East as justification for violence. It is time these countries start accepting their brothers now in this time of need.

Unfortunately, I see no effort, by the Obama Administration to take up this mantle of leadership. (I would also point out I don’t see the erstwhile leaders of the Republican Party doing any better). There’s no point in expecting Europe to take a stand because Europe is incapable of making decisions and simply hopes the unpleasantness goes away.

Simply hoping it goes away is not a plan, it’s barely an aspiration. So until then, stop treating the people fleeing war zones as subhuman criminals.

It boils down to this simple concept: You don’t want refugees? Then stop bombing other countries.

You want to bomb other countries? Then be prepared to accept refugees.

You can only choose one option.


One thought on “Life Is Not a Hamburger: Refugee Edition Part 1

  1. Pingback: Life Is Not a Hamburger: Refugee Edition Part 2 | Fermenting Politics

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