I regularly refer to immigrants, emigrants, migrants, and refugees in this blog. And, to some extent that last category has always been a somewhat obligatory attempt to cover all bases. And to my mind, true refugees have, until recently, seemed to be a minority among migrants. They are always there, but happily their numbers seemed to be relatively low. In recent months that’s all changed.
And as a flood of refugees have poured into Europe it’s been interesting to watch the reactions here in Ireland (a country that has a long history of economic and political/social emigration if not actual refugee flight to other countries) and the United States (a country that prides itself on being the great melting pot, welcoming all those in need).
While there was, and continues to be, some trepidation on the part of a few European countries, by and large the EU has done what it can and has stretched itself to, at least temporarily, accommodate those in need. Over time it will be interesting to see how these refugees are assimilated into places like The Netherlands, France, and some Scandinavian countries where racial and ethnic tensions are already quite high.
But for now at least things seem to be progressing fairly well in the EU. And Ireland, one of the smaller less economically blessed countries, is doing what it can now, and has committed to doing more as resources become available. That pleases me.
By contrast, my ancestral home, the United States initially responded with xenophobic zeal, threats of border closures, and fear of jihadist infiltration. Granted, much of this was in the early days of a presidential election – never a time when the U.S. showcases it’s best and brightest, but still it seemed radically out of step with humanity. Fortunately that hate-filled rhetoric has died down a bit and plans are afoot to make room for some refugees. I’m glad to hear that the U.S. is doing, “better”.
And, it’s doing better (on a host of levels) that is, I believe, at the center of the entire refugee crisis.
For almost all migrants, some concept of “better” is at the heart of relocation. For my wife and I it was a more promising economic future (a better life). For others it’s more opportunity and a better life for their children. And for political, social, and resource-displaced refugees it’s improved living conditions, or freedom from political or religious oppression. The betterment of our lives is why we choose to leave our comfort zone.
So, as we welcome these new members to our community I’d like to think that we’ll recognize a bit of ourselves in them. And in the areas that have been resistant to welcome them (in some cases for understandable, if not justifiable, reasons), I know your minds will not change over night. But, I hope you can find it in you to try. We’re none of us perfect. But, alongside the universal quest for a better life I believe we also find the universal human desire to “do better”, to try harder.
No one and nothing is perfect, and the world doesn’t change quickly, but unless we make the effort to stretch ourselves and “do better” little by little, nothing will ever be accomplished. The history of human achievement is a tale of simply, step-by-step doing things a little bit better.
Bit by bit, step-by-step (one refugee family at a time) we make the world a better place, and the endeavor, the simple act of trying, makes us stronger in the bargain.
Dublin, September 2015
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Water Rights (and infrastructure)
Finding the “Right” City For You