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A cry for morality

| Friday, December 4, 2015

The world is facing a crisis. A crisis full of many emotions — pity, terror, empathy, anger, sadness, fear. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, an estimated more than 9 million Syrians have fled their homes in search of refuge. Either relocating domestically or internationally, families have uprooted their lives and their children, leaving their friends, relatives and any sense of normalcy. They leave not out of desire to find a new job. The refugees are not looking to seek a new lifestyle in a wealthier country out of greed. They are not pretending to flee a deadly war in order to inflict more violence abroad on Americans and Europeans. Rather, they leave for one reason — fear for their lives. The same fear that the city of Paris, the country of France and the whole world felt after the attacks a few weeks ago. I am in no way trying to belittle the atrocities that took place in Paris, but rather I am trying to highlight the atrocity that the world has committed by turning a blind eye to Syria and the victims of its civil war.

The Paris terrorist attacks were devastating not only because innocent lives were taken but because it took the murder of these 129 innocent lives to make the world speak up. Why are the 250,000 deaths within Syria in the past four and a half years not enough? Why are the 1,500 civilians that were killed in one day by the oppressive Assad regime through chemical attacks not enough? Why are the 2,800 refugees that have died while trying to flee the violence that Paris saw for one night not enough? The answer is because the biggest emotion of this crisis is not anger or sadness — it is fear. The terrorists have this figured out. It is the very essence of their name — terror. Their strategy works because the more they make us feel threatened and fearful for being who were are, the more we let them win. Paris has sparked a conversation because this fear is actualized in a country that we picture to be not too different from our own. When we picture Syria, we picture a war-torn Middle East where chemical warfare, air strikes, oppressive governments and death is the norm. What we do not picture is the people, just like you and me, the kids and the young adults who have done nothing to deserve this injustice, yet it is still their daily lives from a country controlled by a terrorist group and an oppressive and murderous dictatorship. They have given up everything they love and everything they have simply to live.

If you believe in what more than half of our governors have proposed — that we keep Syrian refugees from seeking asylum in our country — then you are going to be on the wrong side of history. Blaming the victims out of fear is cowardly and inhumane and has to be stopped immediately. We must stop this racist, shameful and un-American response to the crisis. We cannot let the world treat the refugees and innocent Muslims everywhere as scapegoats for our Islamaphobia. The refugees are not the radicalized extremists who are trying to kill us. Since September 11, no refugees have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. The process to seek refugee status in the United States takes on average more than two years and is so extensive that by the time a refugee reaches our shores, the government knows who their third cousin is and what score they got on their fifth grade history test. Find me a terrorist with such a fabricated life and hidden extremism who is willing to wait two years to potentially be accepted. The Islamic State can much more easily radicalize European nationalists or Americans who are already free to flow between borders without government restriction. Blaming the refugees and fearing the innocent will always be wrong. The attack on Paris has made one thing clear — it is time to act. It is time to stand up to the violence rather than letting fear hold us back. The only weapon that is capable of defeating us is fear. We are strong and can defeat terrorism by not succumbing to the fear within us but rather turning it into conviction and desire for peace. The way to achieve peace through all this war is to not let fear suppress our moral obligation to stop violence and help those who are seeking refuge.

In December of 1938, 68.8 percent of college students did not support accepting Jewish refugees from Central Europe. It is our time to step up and say we are not going to let another genocide happen. We have the power to hold our nation and our world to a higher standard and provide for those in need. A harsh winter is coming and unless you plan to ignore the real problem while hundreds of thousands of people will freeze in refugee camps, forests and dirty streets, cry out for morality and justice. Cry out for peace and humanity. It starts here in our community at Notre Dame for we are the young voice of America and we can cry out for change. Cry out for our nation to follow the likes of Germany and Canada to aid the refugees. Cry out and mourn for the deaths of not only the Parisians but also the Syrians. Cry, cry — but act, for to be human is to love and to love is to provide for those in need.

“We must not let ourselves be moved by fear in this country. We have seen that happen too many times in other countries. Sometimes I worry about the possibility that we will follow their example.” — Eleanor Roosevelt, 1939 on the overwhelming American fear of Jewish refugees


Monica Montgomery


McGlinn Hall

Nov. 19

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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