for today’s post i’m sharing photos by sebastiao salgado.
it was a couple of hours of my time well spent, wandering through the berkeley art museum back in 2002, absorbing salgado’s amazing collection migrations: humanity in transition. i was adrift myself, recently relocated far from home in a post 9/11 political climate, when i took in these visually stunning photos of displaced people from all over the world. something about them really touched my core; my account of the exhibit and the feelings it evoked, complete with the exhibit pamphlet and newspaper clippings of salgado’s photos, fills several pages of my journal from that time. that journal is full of many other long entries as i was sorting out a lot of my own values and beliefs – as you do when you’re 23 and know absolutely no one. i had landed a technician job in a marine mammal genetics lab, relocated 3000 miles away in my 1988 corsica, which promptly blew a head gasket, and i spent the next 5 years making my way around the bay area on borrowed and second-hand bikes. at the time i saw this exhibit, i was still pretty fresh off a schooner, both broke and nursing a broken heart, and eating rice and beans and whatever fresh vegetables i could fit in my backpack on the 6 mile uphill trek home to the oakland hills.
“there are adults who have lived their whole lives in camps where only the oldest remember where they were displaced from. there are children who have been separated from their families in the chaos of flight from violence, warfare. whole orphanages full of them.” the journal entry was seriously grappling with the privilege i felt guilty to be enjoying, compared to the poverty and fear experienced by so many.
i don’t feel such overwhelming guilt now, but i do feel a sense of responsibility for maintaining an awareness of the plight of people much less fortunate than myself. as elie wiesel put it so well, “as long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. as long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. what all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.”
elie wiesel is also quoted as saying, “no human being is illegal.” which, when you think about it, is a no-brainer. i like how he thinks, which i guess is why i’ve kept insisting on quoting him recently. he seems to have understood that someone else having rights, not only doesn’t detract from one’s own rights; on the contrary, it enhances everyone’s freedom.
a country based on freedom should have policy that reflects it. i remain unconvinced of the supposed threat we face from refugees, and remain convinced that it is our responsibility to treat “the least of these” with compassion. in the aftermath of muslim ban 1.0, before the judicial system rightfully put a stop to it, many legal permanent residents were cast into uncertainty about their lives, careers, and futures in their legal country of residence, scrambling until judges upheld their right to not be illegally deported, their right to have their families reunited. a breastfeeding (american citizen) baby was separated from her (legal permanent resident) mother at an airport, for hours, unable to receive comfort or nutrition from her mother because of this chaos. an eleven month old infant: truly, the least of these.
muslim ban 2.0 cannot be allowed to stand either. my safety, my security, my freedom is not enhanced by separating nursing infants from their mothers; it is degraded. my security is not enhanced by refusing to accept someone who is without a homeland.
i understand that those who want to join our country need to be vetted. but this is already happening. what part of the already extensive vetting process needs improvement? what’s the plan to improve it? in the meantime, how can you evaluate the vetting process accurately without seeing it in action? if it was truly so flawed it needed to be halted, what were the problems that were identified? who slipped through the cracks, what harm did they cause, how did they get through vetting undetected? what is the actual threat prevented by a ban? (hint: there isn’t one.)
this author, who claims, “i’m pro life, but i hope to become more so,” put this lack of threat in perspective. “since 1980, three million refugees have been resettled in the united states. in that time not one has taken the life of an american in an act of terrorism. the conservative cato institute estimates that the likelihood of an individual american being killed in an act of terrorism committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year. somehow it does not feel truly and fully pro-life to be unwilling to give up one-3.64 billionth of my security to make room for someone bombed out of their city, someone who is homeless, cold and unwelcomed.”
this article outlines all “major terrorist attacks” since 9/11 on american soil… “of this list, zero fatal attacks were carried out by immigrants from the seven muslim-majority countries targeted by the ban. two attacks were carried out by individuals with ties to the seven countries: the 2006 unc suv attack, and the 2016 ohio state university attack. neither of those plots resulted in american deaths.”
terrorist attacks carried out by american citizens from montana, tennessee, arkansas, texas, wisconsin, new jersey, kansas, nevada, south carolina, and colorado did, though.
which is why i think it’s important that we keep the “countering violent extremism” program focused broadly on all forms of violent extremism, including the domestic white supremacist brand.
another article succinctly laid out the facts concerning the “phantom menace” a muslim ban would claim to combat:
nationals of the seven countries singled out… have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on u.s. soil between 1975 and 2015.
six iranians, six sudanese, two somalis, two iraqis, and one yemeni have been convicted of attempting or executing terrorist attacks on u.s. soil during that time period…
over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the united states have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on u.s. soil, and only three americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by cuban refugees in the 1970s.
between 1975 and 2015, the ‘annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist…’
i mean, call me crazy, but i’ll take my chances and open my arms to refugees.
in the words of jack white, “love is the truth – it’s the right thing to do.”