America: “I stick my neck out for nobody”

Refugees rely on aid.  Humanitarian aid relies on funding from donors and there is no way around this.  Yet an article published in 2012 in Johannesburg, titled “Donor fatigue forces WFP to cut refugee rations,” shows that funding is decreasing and this is becoming a major problem for those living in camps in at least four African countries (from the article).  The food rations of those in the camp are being cut, and for most of the people in the camp earning their own income is not an option.  The chances of becoming self sufficient are slim to impossible and some of the refugees have been living in the camp for over a decade.  This is not a temporary solution.

So why should we care?  The climate in America seems to be “out of sight, out of mind.”  We care about issues that affect us and for the rest, well it may be sad but it happens.  In my SMAD 301 course, we recently watched the Hollywood classic, Casablanca.  In the film, the main character, Rick is a man who to escape the hardship of the Nazi takeover in France, comes to Casablanca in Morocco and runs a cafe there.  He is a harsh man who takes the approach of “sticking his neck out for nobody” and not wanting to get involved in the matters of others.  He simply looks out for himself.  Yet as the film continues, he eventually becomes a man who is willing to interfere and take risks to fight for good.  Because the film takes place in WWII, Casablanca is a melting pot for many who come to seek access to get to the US or another country to escape the war.  Casablanca is like a holding place for many of the people who hope to just be passing through but some are trapped there.

The film has an allegory of Rick representing the US during the war.  We started out as sticking to our isolationist foreign policy and keeping out of it as much as possible.  But as the conflict continues it becomes apparent that America must get involved, on moral grounds.  And eventually the war is won.

In many ways, Casablanca has parallels to refugee camps.  They are “holding places” for people who have no other place to go.  And though it may not be up to us that these places exist, we can be aware of it.  Like Rick, we do not have to stay ignorant to what is happening around us simply because we have to look out for ourselves.  Similar to the US before getting involved in WWII, we were scared.   But our agenda cannot and should not only concern ourselves.   As another reading stated, “durable solutions are political solutions” and if that is true, then its citizens need to demand more of our government.  And as citizens we need to be advocating for others.

And living in fear isn’t a good answer anymore.  What many right leaning politicians argue is safety and protecting it’s citizens is actually being ignorant and cruel to the rest of the world.  Trump’s travel ban falls under this among other actions he has made as President.  The link below follows an article that discusses what Donald Trump could learn from watching the film and how underneath the themes of romance and war give insight into the lives of refugees and how they are facing similar situations still today.

http://www.laweekly.com/arts/what-donald-trump-could-learn-from-casablanca-7920945

-MP

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America: Leading Last Place in the Migrant Crisis

Although the Migrant Crisis has faded away from Headlines from Top News Sites and many people in privileged areas have forgotten about it, the issues still remain in 2018.

It was sparked by over a million migrants and refugees crossing into Europe in 2015, creating a conflict as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people. The top ten places people are leaving and applying to asylum from in Europe include: Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran, and the Ukraine. A lot of these individuals are fleeing from tremulous and dangerous conditions in their homeland. Some even being forced out. Many of these individuals also make dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean to find some sort of safety in Europe.

Clearly, there is a huge influx of individuals that are seeking asylum, so what does the World Leader, America, do in situations like this? Simply deny the crisis is even happening. 

As a leader of the free world, America typically has been at the forefront of welcoming the displaced, the unwelcome, those in need. But Trump has decided to make other plans. He has withdrawn the United States from the global community for refugee protection. Trump officially pulled the United states out from the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration as countries keep trying to hammer out a framework for settling the 60 million-plus displaced people around the world.

Author Dara Lind states, “The US is rejecting the very idea of a “global refugee crisis” — instead taking it for granted that countries have a responsibility for the lives of their citizens, and that if those countries have failed, people who are similar to the displaced citizens ought to step up to help.” 

Because Trump seems to have some issues understanding the migrant crisis, I’ve made this list to help him understand better:

  • Not all refugees are terrorists. According to the Cato Institute, the chance of being killed by a refugee in America is one in 3.6 billion.
  • Refugees go through extensive screenings in order to enter to United States, including interviews, background checks, medical screenings, and classes.
  • Giving humanitarian aid is not the same as offering asylum for refugees.
  • Refugees benefit the economy by working a diverse range of jobs and filling up the workforce.
  • Refugee resettlement is a critical foreign policy and national security tool.
  • Most Americans welcome refugees. The numbers of Americans stepping up to volunteer to assist refugees has also grown exponentially in the last few years.
  • It is the morally right thing to do. These are real people seeking real help.

 

-KT

 

“We are the turn of this century. We are the voice of change. We are here to fix what America is falling short of.”

Mya Middleton is 16 years old, and hit us with the hard truth.

Mya

I attended March For Our Lives on March 24th, 2018 which were organized by the survivors of the Parkland shooting where 17 high school teenagers were shot dead. They were classmates, friends, family, siblings of the people who spoke on that stage. “Enough is enough” they yelled, we chanted. It is enough. We’ve had enough of the gun violence that affects millions of lives. We’ve had enough of politicians sending “thoughts and prayers”. We’ve had enough of social media posts. We’ve had enough of the inaction that is within our community. Gun violence is a serious human rights issue that is avoidable whether it is taking mental illnesses seriously or banning AR-15s or strengthening our bullying prevention programs. It is better to take actions to prevent a tragedy than after one, but that is exactly what had to happen. After Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Vegas, Orlando, thoughts and prayers were being sent around but no action or policy change. These kids have lived in a generation of terror and guns. Most of these kids were born in 2000, they have witnessed 9/11 and the dehumanization of Muslims and destruction of the Middle East. They have witnessed a president who has no respect for women or minorities. And they have witnessed the money that is poured in my the NRA that have take the lives of their loved ones. Lawmakers are trusted to make the best decision for their community, but instead they are the ones who have blood on their hands.

These kids did not come out of nowhere. They were bred in a world of violence. They are aware of what is happening and they are sick of it. We are sick of it. We are the dam that is ready to explode, and when that happens you better be ready for it.

So we say enough is enough. “We are the turn of this century. We are the voice of change. We are here to fix what America is falling short of.”

The youth have inspired me to march and to make a change. Thank you for lighting up the fire within me.

 

-P.S.

Inaction calls for action

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen how high school survivors of the Parkland school shooting have come together to make a movement. High school aged teens are showing that they have a voice and are using it to change the nation. We have seen how if you have enough passion, dedication, bravery, and determination then you can accomplish anything. I commend these survivors for standing up to a system that they don’t agree with and taking action.

For decades, refugees around the world have been suffering every single day. Their camps, which were once thought to be temporary, have now become a permanent reality for some as they continue to grow their family and create a new home there. People go through extreme suffering 24/7 in other countries and while we may be aware of this, we don’t do much. Maybe it’s because we, as citizens, aren’t completely educated on the actual severity of the issue. However, those who are thoroughly informed, such as government officials, don’t do much either. Why is this? Why did it take yet another school shooting for people to listen to the survivors? Will it take another genocide full of mass extinction to wake people up? Why is no one doing anything?

Like the Parkland school shooting survivors, many of us can understand the frustration in how things are ran in our world. The inaction by those in power is unfathomable. As stated in an article by Amnesty International in which they list 8 simple ways to help the refugee crisis:

“None of these eight solutions are impossible to achieve, if politicians listen to the millions of people saying ‘refugees welcome’, and put solidarity and compassion above petty wrangling over who should host a few thousand refugees”

It has come to the point where it seems as if those in power are not using their authority to protect basic human rights. And if this is the case, then inaction by those in power calls for action by those who aren’t in power. Here are five ways that you can make a difference in the Refugee crisis:

  1. Donate Money
  2.  Volunteer your time and help refugees in your area
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Donate other supplies
  5. Volunteer your home

And out of all of these, number three is one of the most important. As we have seen from the Parkland school shooting survivors, our voices can be loud and can move mountains if we use them. Use your voice to take action, and refuse to let the inaction of those in power deter you.

-Kate Keeley

Giving voice to the silenced

“Only a political place and a political speech can return those who are nameless and voiceless in our common world.” At first glance, this quote really fired me up; however, once I wrote it down and decided to expand on it, I realized that I am not entirely sure what it meant. What exactly is considered a “political place?” How do we decide what can stand for one?

My personal belief is that our country stands as one of the most powerful political places in the world. Now if that is the truth, this quote is saying that we are a country that has the power to return the identity of the nameless and voiceless. But how do we do that?

This course has made me painfully aware of how passionate I am about advocating for the marginalized, but also has made me aware of how much I am painfully UNaware of. I am the most ignorant person I know. I am passionate about topics I know little about and have opinions about things I have no facts on. This course has showed me how detrimental that can be.

I’m not exactly where this blog post is going… I blame that partially on the snow day, but mostly on my overwhelmed brain. Half of me is feeling guilty because I feel that the refugee issue is too large to fix and the other half is frustrated that I am thinking that way. I usually am one to jump into wanting to do all I can to help; however, this course is showing me that there really is not a whole lot that I can do… at least not yet.

All I know is that this course has given me a new responsibility. We, as a society need to continue to learn. We need to continue to break down the invisible walls that have been set in place to block us from our ignorance. We need to be talking; about anything and everything. We need to do all that we can to deliver a voice to those who have been silenced and give hope to those who are in the midst of an identity crisis.

 

-KM

Small Acts, Big Difference

I had no idea what to expect when our class met to finally open the envelope we were given in secrecy. I had a few suspicions. Perhaps we would go on a scavenger hunt, or maybe all complete an activity together to help us bond as a class. I never expected to have $100 cash fall out of that envelope; nor did I expect for us to be given the task of deciding what to do with the generous sum.

After staring at the letter and cash with our jaws dropped for a few moments, we immediately jumped into action, each of us throwing out ideas about how we could use the money within the community. I was surprised to see how many organizations the eleven of us came up with that could use the funds. We debated for a few minutes before deciding on Second Home, an after school program for elementary and middle school children who come from low income homes. We then threw out ideas on how to use the money to serve them. Tyler had to stop us and remind us of a reading we had just discussed in class that spoke about how we should ask organizations how we can help instead of just assuming. Looking back now, I am amazed at how easy it was to get carried away in assuming that we know what is best for others. If we hadn’t have called, we never would have known that they needed the books and school supplies that we were able to purchase.

After buying the supplies and delivering them, we all stood outside of the building and just talked for a few minutes about how much fun we had completing the task we were “assigned.” It is crazy to me that eleven (kind of) strangers bonded over serving total strangers. I could not think of a better way to bring our class together; nor can I think of a more memorable experience. The smallest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference in the lives of those we may not expect, including ourselves.

 

-KM