Will we help the refugees?

by Rob Tiller

A new apartment building south of us is coming along in downtown Raleigh. Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ....

A new apartment building south of us is coming along in downtown Raleigh.

It’s hard to read about, and hard to think about, the refugee crisis now unfolding in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Millions of people are desperate and fleeing their homelands. Thousands are dying. When misery reaches a certain size, it overwhelms our powers of understanding and sympathy. It’s easy to become numb.

It was interesting that a photograph of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy galvanized public opinion last week, but not really surprising. The elemental horror of the scene is arresting. It came at a moment when we could no longer avoid seeing the crisis. Thousands of desperate refugees are looking for safety in Europe. But suddenly we saw, it’s not just a mass of thousands – it’s about a child. It’s great when images can help us understand. With Google’s assistance, I found a few other images that helped me grasp a little more of what’s happening, and might help you here, here, and here.

Europeans are struggling with this. They’ve got problems of their own in terms of resource limitations, logistical problems, neo-Nazi constituents, etc. Kudos to Angela Merkel for her brave leadership. Maybe other leaders will distinguish themselves.

In any case, the United States needs to pitch in and help. We can’t pretend this has nothing to do with us. The US played a leading role in some of the political and military misadventures that have caused this mass migration, including invading and destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. It bears some responsibility.

But let’s not argue about that — assume we’re innocent bystanders. Even then, our basic values of decency and fairness require that we do something to help innocent people in peril. We’ve done it before, in times of war and crisis. At our best, we don’t ignore people in desperate need. We help them. Make it even simpler – there’s one dying child. We need to help that child.

I’m reaching out to my representatives and President Obama and asking for action, because, you never know, it might do some good. Will you join me?

In Durant Park, 5 September 2015, 11:30 a.m.

In Durant Park, 5 September 2015, 11:30 a.m.