Writer: Priyan Selvakumar is an avid debater who hopes to see issues like refugees bought into new perspective.
America was not founded by practical mindsets. Practicality would have said to stick with the status quo, practicality would have imitated the successful parliamentary monarchies that governed Europe. But the forces that shaped America were not practical, they were born out of an idea that challenged the human definition, that recreated a set relationship between the government and the governed, a set relationship that had held for 10 millennium.
When people argue against the influx of refugees their arguments tend to be based off of seemingly practical concerns such as a fear for safety. While the foundation and validity of these concerns are questionable, the primary issue is that it ignores an ideological definition. Americans have never been a single people, we have been a dynamic and shifting mixtures of cultures and ethnicities. We are the melting pot. When we turn away from that, when we turn away the suffering, when we reject those in desperate need, when we turn a blind eye to tragedy, we lose our defining quality. What more? We lose our authority. How can one argue for an american led world order, how can one justify American intervention on behalf of democracy, how can one continue to perpetuate the stance that America can manipulate other government and violate sovereignty in the name of human rights, when we turn away the huddled masses, dressed in the viscous garments of pain and poverty? What liberty is liberty to a select few? America may preach the values of justice and compassion to the whole world, but that preacher who does not follow his own sermon, that preacher who does not dedicate blood and soul ot the furthering of his own sermon, is no preacher but a scam artist. Is that what we will let America become? An empty preacher and a scam artist?
But the characterization is worse than that. We went to war on Iraq according to George Bush to “Free the Iraqi People”. Well now the mess incited by that “freedom” and by irresponsible American policy is perhaps the key factor behind the rapid migration of refugees ( read article American Fears, American causes for more). That makes us not only hypocritical preachers, it makes America a slob who creates a mess and then leaves it for other to clean.It makes America unreliable, we spent billions of dollars and fought a war to free the Iraqi people, now when their held captive by the grips of poverty and terror, will we not fulfill the promise to free them? Will we not take responsibility for our actions?
That is the real threat refugees pose. Not terrorist attacks. Not stealing jobs. The real threat refugees pose regards how we treat them, for that could decide how we can rightfully define ourselves. The real threat that refugees pose is not in accepting them, its in turning them away, for that could bring into question the legitimacy of American principles and of the human spirit. We can no longer justify American authority in the global community if we will not lead responsibly and humanely.
There is no debate regarding the fact that in the humdrum of everyday life, practicality often supersedes ideology. The problem is, this abandonment of transcendental ideas has been on a steady decline for the past few decades. As political journalist David Brooks compellingly pens in his New York Times article “ In Defense of Big Love”, the spirit and the faith in great ideas that cross the boundaries between centuries that drove men of previous generations to wage bloody battles in defense of this nation, is all but gone. But it can’t be gone. It is those big ideas, the massive movements that shaped the constitution. It created the American experiment of democracy, an idea so novel and so amazing it had never before been attempted in 200,000 years of human history. But it was attempted because of belief in something greater, a belief that looked not at the present but at a whole span of human history and human nature. And today that experiment, after much evolution has single handedly driven mankind to amazing points. And it is our responsibility to keep alive that idea. To keep alive the idea of a freedom filled sanctuary where hard work is rewarded. While it current there may be obstacles to the American Dream, while truly equal opportunity may be an abstract concept, it is concept we keep fighting for. It is a concept that challenges how the world works and challenges human nature. So we will continue to fight for it. And if that means letting in refugees despite risk, then we will do that, if not for their sake then for America’s. Because in the grand scheme these little things matter.