Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Shivering in the dark at the Caltrain platform: a perspective

The wind felt quite cold as we waited on the Caltrain platform. Due to a fatality near the Santa Clara station, trains would be delayed 60 or 90 minutes.

It turned out to be more like two hours, but as I started feeling uncomfortable, I thought, here I am in a pair of jeans, a scarf, a hoodie and a coat. Even if it lasts another hour, tonight I'll have a hot meal and and sleep in my own bed next to my wife in our warm house.

I thought of the thousands of Syrian refugees, fleeing violence at home, and how much harder it will be for them after those bullies from Da'esh launched the Paris attacks. I mean—imagine it:

You're just trying to feed your family, minding your own business, and one day you start to hear rumors. You're afraid, but what can you do? Then one night you hear doors slamming, screams, gunshots; you gather your family and run like hell. The next day you make your way back to town and find your neighbors and extended family killed. You find another survivor, who tells you that armed men went door to door, killing everyone who didn't have the right kind of family name, or wasn't the right kind of Muslim.

And now a bunch of European countries are telling you to stay out, when all you're trying to do is get away from people who have killed off most of your village.

I think about our United States, how many people came from Europe, fleeing religious persecution of all things, in the 17th century. And in the centuries since, how many more came from all over the world to make new lives for themselves, fleeing poverty and persecution. Some came in search of a better life, or maybe just in search of adventure.

And I am embarrassed today to be a citizen of the same country where so many GOP governors have said they'll take no more Syrian refugees. Yes, some "refugees" are actually terrorists, and some real refugees will become terrorists. But the overwhelming majority—I mean let's be serious—are just trying to stay alive.

And I remember with some bitterness that people like Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh, the Columbine shooters whose names I've forgotten, Adam Lanza, and lots of other mass killers were never refugees.

What is the matter with us?

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