As hard as this is to believe, sometimes Facebook is the source of great wisdom. Today I saw this post, from a woman named Lorelle Saxena. It was so beautifully written and brilliantly explained that I had to share it with all of you. I attempted to contact Lorelle to get permission to post it here, but had no luck. I hope the fact that it has already been shared 24,000 times on Facebook will mean that she won’t mind if I share it one more time.
I’m done with polite, apolitical vaguebooking right now. There are so many smugly hateful messages on my Facebook feed, and I’m not going to get into it with each and every one of you, but here is the bottom line:
There is no reason, not one single reason, why I deserve shelter, food, stability, safety, health, or your regard any more than any given Syrian refugee. Not one reason. My home, my education, my business; the way I look, the way I talk; the fact that I come home to a safe, whole, healthy family every day–every one of those things is a privilege that I fell into by the random circumstance of being born in this country to parents who valued academic achievement. I, or you, could have just as easily been born in Syria, or Burkina Faso, or Afghanistan. Do you really think that you’re a different kind of human being than the refugees? Do you think your privilege is earned?
I know: you’ve worked hard for what you have. I have, too. But have we worked harder than the refugees worked for the lives that were destroyed? Do we love our children more than they do; would we grieve harder if a civil war took them away from us? And how long do you believe it would take for a bomb to destroy everything safe about your life?
Compared to most people in the world, you and I are rich with privilege, much of it just because we were lucky enough to be born in a country fat with it. I woke up early this morning and made organic, whole-grain muffins for my son, then dressed him in warm clothes, put sunscreen on his little face, strapped and buckled him into his bike seat and rode along peaceful streets to deliver him at his warm, nurturing preschool. There were so many levels on which I was able to protect him. Every breath of this morning was a privilege. Meanwhile millions of children who months ago had bedrooms and dinner tables and doctors and schools are sleeping directly on the ground, their parents unable to secure shelter or food for them, much less healthcare or education.
And no, that is not your fault. But that’s not the same as it not being our responsibility. We have everything we need and then so much on top of that, and we can choose to exemplify to our own children one of two courses of action: we can open our clutched fists and share with our fellow humans all the abundance that exists here–or we can hoard it, greedy and bloated and fearful.
These are families like yours. Thinking they might have connections to terrorist factions is as rational as thinking you might be a terrorist because Timothy McVeigh was American. Half of the refugees are children. What is it in you that can close your eyes to other human beings, especially human beings that are small and hungry and cold?
I’m not asking you to give half of everything you have to help them, or to turn your backyard into a tent city, or to donate to causes that support efforts to protect these very vulnerable people. I’m asking you not to hate them because they need something you have. I’m asking you to recognize that the fear being built around the refugees is less about American security and more about American greed. I’m asking you to be a human being that understands every human being has basic needs and that the lucky among us can afford to share our luck to ease suffering. I’m asking you to stop thinking, posting, politicizing around the idea that we just can’t help before we’ve taken care of our own.
Because there is no such thing as “our own.” Every human is our own. Every hungry child, grieving mother, frightened husband, weary grandmother is our own. Nobody gets to pretend our world is a different world from the world that creates civil wars and bombs and hunger. We are all toeing this same precarious, shifting tightrope of a life. Anyone can fall at any time. All there is to catch us is each other.