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Guest opinion

Americans must open arms to Syrian refugees

Who among us was not moved by images of the German people greeting refugees with hot tea and toys following a grinding journey from the killing fields of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to the safety of the European Union? Or by Hungarians lining the highway to offer water and fresh fruit for those refugees desperate enough to start walking from Budapest to Vienna — more than 150 miles — some pushing wheelchairs or baby strollers, some on crutches, many with children atop their shoulders?

So much for "Fortress Europe" and the stereotypes of aloof and xenophobic Europeans. The people have spoken and their arms are open even if their governments largely lag behind.

Contrast this with the reception of desperate Central American mothers, teens and children received last summer on our southern border. Or the endlessly manipulative talk of the need for "the fence" among rich, white political candidates to keep our Mexican compadres out.

Surely we are a better people than this.

Since the civil war began in spring 2011, some 4 million Syrians — the population of the state of Oregon — have been displaced from their homes. That figure is expected to rise to more then 6 million before long.

In fiscal year 2013, the last for which hard statistics are available from the Department of Homeland Security, a mere 36 — thirty-six — were given asylum in the United States — this in a year when 1 million Syrians fled their homes.

This is like the entirety of metro Tucson desperately fleeing for our lives to the nearest border and Mexico giving allowing 36 of us in.

Conditions are much worse today than they were in 2013. Those today walking across Europe and dying on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea include large numbers of Iraqis and Afghans; people, like the Syrians who are fleeing the forces unleashed by the US reaction to 9/11 more than a decade ago. While the governments of these countries bear the bulk of responsibility, let's be honest, we had a role in creating this violence and ensuing exodus from the region.

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We have a responsibility to contribute what we can.

Yes, since 2011, the U.S. government has offered $4 billion for Syrians displaced by war. And we have sunk billions more tax dollars into in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we need to open our arms.

How often do we Americans repeat that ours is the greatest country on the planet? We pride ourselves on being the richest, most powerful nation ever. Surely the greatest country on earth can offer more than Facebook postings and tax dollars to those fleeing brutal conflicts that bear our imprint.

We are a country born of refugees fleeing European political and religious persecution. We pride ourselves on the success of the melting pot of "huddled masses" who have built this mighty nation.

It's time to stop the rhetoric about freedom, might and right and open our arms. And it's time to realize that the people fleeing are not terrorists – they are, in fact, fleeing the very same "terrorists" that we fear and would surely run from.

Do we have pressing needs here that would also benefit from our largess? Absolutely. But from these refugees come new energy, new ideas, innovation and creativity. From these refugees come the Albert Einsteins and Steve Jobs; the governors like Raul Castro, the entertainers like Gloria Estefan, and the inspirational game changers like Cesar Chavez. They start great little businesses in our community like Babylon and Sunrise Cafe, Zemam's, Café Desta, Zayna's, Jasmine's and Sinbad's.

We are rich. We are powerful. We can provide for all if there is a will. It is time for the people to lead. It is time to stop the fear mongering with fact. It is time to demand more of our governments.

We need to support the U.S. senators who are encouraging our nation to take in 67,000 Syrian refugees next year. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees wants to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. We need to support that effort. There are petitions doing just that.

Volunteer with the local International Rescue Committee, Refugee Focus or Iskashitaa Refugee Network. Donate goods to furnish apartments. Better yet, offer your casita or part of your home. More then 10,000 Icelandic citizens offered to open their homes to refugees. Volunteer to mentor a family or help with job searches, skill building or resume writing. Work with a New Roots community garden.

Through this work we can come to know the refugees in our community. We will learn that they are human beings, no more no less. They are not to be feared. They want safety and security. They want education for their kids, food for the table, a job for self-respect, a functioning car, and an occasional movie. They want what we all want.

Support TucsonSentinel.com today, because a smarter Tucson is a better Tucson.

And perhaps, when thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans make it through the byzantine UN and U.S. medical and security processes and are resettled in our Tucson, we will be ready to welcome then in.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Maggy Zanger is a professor of practice at the University of Arizona School of Journalism and an affiliated faculty member of the UA Center for Middle Eastern Studies. She lived in Iraq for two years reporting, researching and training Iraqi journalists. She also lived in Egypt and traveled extensively in the Middle East.

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4
533 comments
Sep 10, 2015, 9:35 am
-1 +3

@DC025,

No, you’re posting lies. Russian propaganda compilations of completely different events tossed together with a thick ooze of hate speech on top isn’t a contribution to the discussion.

Oh, and you’re banned. kthxbye

3
2 comments
Sep 10, 2015, 9:33 am
-1 +1

Thanks, Dylan. Of course, you forgot to mention that I make the best old-style patty tacos in Paris, which isn’t saying much, alas. It always amazes me how people who hide behind non-names can spout such drivel as “those people,” referring to millions of disparate humans—including gifted intellectuals, highly accomplished doctors and scientists, and 3-year-olds left dead on the beach—and “you people,” referring to all of us not in agreement. The facts are pretty plain, and as Maggy Zanger lays them out. As for that national debt, Mr. or Ms. DC0257 might want to look at what it was when George W. Bush took office and when he left—and also take a look at Joe Stiglitz calculations on where the war money went. I watched a bunch of it vanish in Iraq, and I can’t begin to calculate how many people now hate us to the point of blind mass murder as a result of our folly. As to budgetary imbalances, if we had a sensible tax structure, like every civilized nation I can think of, we’d be fine—and we could even pay some teachers to inspire kids to question, think, and care about the perfectly good world we are squandering. Thanks for all you and the Sentinel are doing to keep some decent journalism alive in Tucson.

2
533 comments
Sep 10, 2015, 9:04 am
-1 +0

Mort Rosenblum printed his first newspaper at 6 on a toy press in his bedroom in Tucson, Arizona. He edited his high school paper and, at 17, left the University of Arizona journalism department to work on the Mexico City Times and then the Caracas Daily Journal. He returned to finish his degree and work on the Arizona Daily Star. He joined Associated Press at Newark in 1965. In 1967, AP sent him to cover mercenary wars in Congo.

Since then, he has written from 200 countries on subjects ranging from war to tango dancing by the Seine. He covered the Biafra secession from Nigeria, Vietnam, the violent birth of Bangladesh, Central American mayhem, Israeli wars, the Iron Curtain collapse, Bosnia and Kosovo, and two Gulf Wars, among other major conflicts.

Based in Argentina in the 1970s, he broke the first stories on the “dirty war.” He wrote the first African famine stories in 1984. In 1989, he won the Overseas Press Club award and was short-listed for a Pulitzer for the fall of Romania. He danced on Red Square the night Communism died.

Rosenblum ran AP bureaus in Kinshasa, Lagos, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Buenos Aires, and Paris. He was editor of the International Herald Tribune from 1979 to 1981 but returned to AP as special correspondent, based in Paris. He won AP’s top reporting award in 1990, 2000 and 2001.

Rosenblum left AP in 2004. In 2008, he launched the quarterly, dispatches, with co-editor Gary Knight and publisher Simba Gill. For part of the year, he is a professor of journalism at the University of Arizona, Tucson. In summer, he takes Tufts University students to such places as Kosovo and Kashmir.

He has written 12 books and contributed to Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, the New York Review of Books, Le Nouvel Observateur, Travel & Leisure, and Bon Appetit, among others. His honors include a 2001 Harry Chapin Award for a series on water, a Mencken Award for African Famine, a James Beard Award for Olives, and an IACP Cookbook Award for Chocolate.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was the 1980 Edward R. Morrow fellow. cite

Besides pseudonymously posting Russian propaganda clips (sorry, but those are going to be removed; nonsense compilations of beating videos that have no bearing on the topic at hand don’t contribute to this conversation), who are you, DC025?

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Franz Ferdinand Photography/Flickr

Volunteers in Frankfurt, Germany, welcome a 'train of hope' carrying Syrian refugees, Sept. 5.

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