Blog Challenge, Reflections

Human vs. Human

Today is Day # 6 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.] I hope today’s post is an informative one.

Today my mind is far too preoccupied with the crisis in Europe to offer anything but a serious post.

As a highly sensitive person, the images, words, and videos continue to play out in my head over and again.

Refugees. Displaced persons. Boat people. Evacuees. Exiles. Many different names have been given for people who are no different than any of us. But their excruciating experiences belie their similarities. Their hunger. Thirst. Fatigue. Their deep sorrow and homesickness. Their fears.

I wish to preface my words by saying I speak about the refugee experience with the claim of but a tiny portion of understanding. My understanding comes from having close family members who were refugees themselves. Like so many other refugees both then and now, they were victims of war-torn countries, not wanted by their own countries, and at risk of not being readily welcomed elsewhere. Over the years, I’ve heard a number of my family’s stories, but merely those they were willing to share. The pain of most refugees usually remains deeply hidden, and forever unspoken.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times likewise wrote about his own father, a refugee from Romania during World War II, in his Op-Ed this week.

It’s easy to say the refugee crisis is somewhere else or someone else’s problem. But the refugee crisis is a human crisis and it’s one that – despite our knowledge of history – continues to recur again and again.

Diaspora, a word coming from the Greek meaning “a scattering about”, is frequently used in describing populations of refugees, helping to visualize the actual act of dispersion of individuals like seeds from their homeland to lands far removed. But the comparison between a seed and a person ends there. Diaspora is an act forced upon these peoples, due to the destructive forces of war and hate. Of human against human.

Incidences of diaspora have occurred since the beginnings of history. The Jewish peoples. The ethnic Germans. The Armenians. The Somalis. The Palestinians. The Iraqis. The Syrians. And so many other groups.

The U.S. also has played its own role in the dispersal of peoples. These include the Atlantic slave trade, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, and in many ways, the Underground Railroad. People leaving their homes to places unknown – sometimes forced, sometimes as an escape.

Look up the word refugee or displaced person in a thesaurus, and likely you’ll see the word undesirable. That is how refugees have often been looked upon throughout history. My family experienced the same. We saw shocking evidence of this lack of acceptance and insensitive treatment recently in some neighboring European countries.

While it may be true that concerns are ever present in receiving refugees, the majority of the refugees of war are families and children. Over 50% of Syrian’s refugees are children less than 18 years of age. With a current tally of over four million refugees, the total exceeds two million children.

As a pediatrician by training, this is unbearable.

Refugees are a desperate and hungry people. Surviving the refugee experience takes super-human resilience and willpower. I have seen this in my family members and in others touched similarly by war.

Furthermore, when a war is long, the children generally become a generation lost without an education. An education others in peacetime or living in safety may sometimes take for granted or even waste.

Today’s crisis is looming larger than it was even in World War II. We’ve all heard the reports. Yes, there are serious and brutal global issues of economic instability, resource limitations, terrorism, and over-population. But – news alert – the refugees would not even consider leaving their homeland if there were safety in staying. But the images of bombed cities, appearing so eerily similar to those in World War II, solidify the fact that they have no homeland any longer. They are a displaced people, surviving at the basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They’ve seen brutality to last a lifetime. Many have lost family and friends. But amazing acts of courage and strength are witnessed everyday. Here’s a video I highly recommend with Melissa Fleming of the UN’s Refugee Agency speaking on the Syrian crisis:

Of course, I don’t want to overlook that I see so many parallels with inner city violence in our own country. People in those cities or communities likewise experience unimaginable loss and hunger, but in smaller and far more invisible numbers. The separation of families. The many children suffering and placed in harm’s way.

Still, unless you are already intimately familiar with the ways that – even to this day – humans still treat humans, nothing you can imagine from what you see on the evening news can really prepare you.

Because the big difference is that when the news program is over, you can turn off the set or switch the channel.

They can’t.

[You can enjoy all the daily posts from the #30PostsHathSept bloggers HERE]