First-World Problems and Refugees

Nov 19, 2015 | Community, Danger Zones & Dark Sides, Stuff I Believe


Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

By Cara Lopez Lee

This entire week, my husband and I have been awaiting word on our mortgage loan documents, hoping our lender draws them up soon so we can close on a new house. On Monday, nobody was answering our calls and we grew anxious. For the past three days we’ve heard promise after promise followed by delay after delay. For some reason, it all makes me think of Syria’s refugees, whose situation is of course a million times direr than ours. I can’t help but seek metaphors, because that’s what my mind does when I try to make sense of things that don’t make sense. So I imagine Syrians desperate for a new home, anxious they made a mistake by leaving the old one, and at the moment they most want help, unable to get it.

About half of the homeless Syrian refugees are children. Yesterday, a friend shared these images by photographer Magnus Wennman, who has been documenting where Syrian refugee children sleep, and I can’t get them out of my head. Some of the children live in fear of the pillows they sleep on, because the attacks on their former homes came at night and they worry that their pillows caused the attacks. Of course, many of the children have no pillows.

Most of the suspected terrorists arrested for perpetrating the Paris attacks have already been verified as European nationals, not Syrian refugees. Nobody is suggesting we stop allowing European nationals into our country. But someone found what appears to be a fake Syrian passport carried by a suicide bomber, and even though someone else was carrying the same person’s passport in another country, and even though this one was likely planted to inflame public outrage, many have allowed that outrage to be inflamed without further investigation. Those people say we should not risk letting Syrian refugees seek refuge in our country. This is one of the goals of terrorists, this sort of knee-jerk fear and anger.

Who do you think many Syrian refugees are running from in the first place? The violence and chaos caused by Islamic State and other extremist elements. Who benefits when Westerners escalate discrimination against Muslims? Extremists who want a holy war with the West.

If you’re one of those who want to shut our borders to people who are fleeing for their lives,  because you believe it will make our lives more secure, you’re kidding yourself. Islamic State is better funded than Al Qaeda ever was, many times over. The organization is rolling in oil money. Do you think if we close our borders to Syrians, we’ll stop Islamic State from continuing its reign of terror, that terrorists won’t find a way to attack Western nations? Most, if not all, the terrorists in this recent attack already lived in Europe. They already found a way in. They were not refugees.

Do you think it was Iraqis who attacked America on 9/11, when it was in fact Saudi Arabians? Do you know we have not closed our doors to Iraqis or Saudis in this country? Because most of them are not terrorists.

If you want to slam the door in the face of people running for their lives, at least half of whom are children, then shame on you. Pray you never know what it’s like to be running from death and destruction only to find that nobody will open their doors to you.

As for my husband and me, we’ll continue waiting for word on our loan documents, and until we close on the house we want, we’ll worry that something will happen to stop us from getting it. If we don’t get the house, it’s not as if we’ll be homeless. We’ll simply find an apartment and keep looking. Actually, our mortgage consultant assures me that we will get the house, sooner or later.

Come to think of it, we’re very, very lucky. Shame on me for worrying over such an enviable First-World problem.


About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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