We’ve established that heartbreaking photographs make bad foreign policy and knee-jerk xenophobia against the refugees caused by that foreign policy is unhelpful. Now we come to the part where pragmatism has to assert itself: explaining why refugees should be welcomed into a country and why the citizens should not fear them. Seems obvious and yet this key factor is often overlooked. Well, not so much overlooked as waved away as being irrelevant.
Let’s be clear: there is a big difference between 1) wondering why your country should be accept a bulk load of foreigners and 2) flatly refusing to take anyone different from you. Politicians, alas, for the sake of expediency often lump group 1 with group 2. And by doing so, they are playing with fire.
Dealing with refugees in normal circumstances requires planning. What Europe is witnessing with the influx of refugees from Syria and Africa requires logistical planning normally reserved for military campaigns. The refugees need places to live, food to eat, and assistance after arriving. It is equally logical that someone will have to pay for it all. In most instances, at least some of that cost will be borne by nation’s taxpayers. Most countries taking refugees do not want to be paying for these costs indefinitely. Therefore, it should be hoped that the refugees who are will find work. But seeking employment creates the impression that they are vying with taxpayers for jobs. So if you are a citizen of the country, you are confronted by an influx of people from a land culture different from yours, and on whom your tax dollars are being spent to house, feed and clothe, akk the while they are looking for jobs as you or your family members are doing. Can you understand why some people may be a little nervous and/or upset?
Why is it so hard for politicians to tell the voters, a/k/a the people who elected them, why they should accept the refugees? Simply mouthing banalities such as “It is the right thing to do” is pointless. (If the Road to Hell is truly paved with good intentions, then “The Right Thing to Do” is surely engraved on one of the bricks.). It is not only pointless but also an admission by the speaker that s/he has no idea why this is, only that this is what “correct thinking” people say to one another. Such vacuous statements do not inspire confidence in leaders. It generates distrust and feelings that those in power are trying to pull a fast one. The belief that the current political parties care more for outsiders than citizens has a corrosive effect on the body politic.
And if those in power won’t listen to the people, the people will turn to those who will. This is why the National Front, the Danish People’s Party, Freedom Party of Austria, Jobbik, etc. are all growing in political strength in Europe. In Germany, the Christian Socialist Union, by no-means a far right organization is showing nationalist tendencies as unease begins to grow. People are concerned, some frightened. And if responsible leaders will not address and allay those fears, others will exploit those concerns, often to the detriment of the citizenry.
What should the politicians say? First recognize the concerns the citizens have. Actually don’t just recognize the concerns, but address the issues to let them know their leaders have their collective backs. That means thinking outside of your social circle. The reason the Democrat Party in the US is getting trounced in Congressional and State elections is because the leaders of the party do not understand the concerns of Middle America. Pauline Kaelism is not a healthy trait for politicians. Listen to the concerns and then allay them by letting the people know that you understand. Explain to them that the refugees aren’t hoovering up money and benefits and won’t steal jobs, but will help to the economy grow and broaden the tax base, reducing the tax burden on working families. Something like:
Yes, we know there are a lot of people trying to get in. We know you are concerned that your taxes are being spent to feed, house and clothe these people instead of being spent on policies that benefit you, the taxpayer. And we know you are afraid the refugees are going to take your jobs. But this is why you don’t need to fear these things.
These people are coming to our country because of you. The refugees look at this country and are in awe at what you have accomplished. Because of you, our standard of living has never been higher. We live longer and healthier lives because of what you have achieved. These refugees want only what you want. They want to work. They are not here to take your jobs. They want to find their own jobs. They want the chance to be productive members of society. For some, this was dream denied them in their own countries. Here, they can live this dream. And by living and working, they will help us. Business will grow because of you. And the growth of these businesses will result in more jobs being created. And as more jobs are created, businesses will have to increase your pay in order to compete with other companies looking to hire you. And just like you, these refugees, as they find work, will pay taxes and not need public benefits. The refugees don’t just want to share that dream with you, they want to help it grow and expand.
Now I know some of you might be concerned about criminal elements who maybe trying to hide amongst the refugees. We are thoroughly screening everyone seeking to enter the country and denying entrance to such individuals. If we find any such individuals in this country, we will remove and send them back from whence they came.
Or words to that effect.
But they don’t. The use weasel words that try to deny the concerns of the people. Even worse, they try blame their own citizens for having these thoughts. This why the European Union is starting to show strains. The Schengen Agreement opened the borders between EU member states. It was supposed to encourage free travel. But with so many refugees coming in, member states are resurrecting border controls, as a “temporary measure”. But these controls are not so much designed to keep the refugees out, but keep the politicians in power. As Gov William J. Lepetomane observed, “We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”
Or, put another way, Life is Not a Hamburger: You Can’t Have It Your Way,