Thursday, November 26, 2015

Of Lunacy and Rabid Dogs

“[The] idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America — it is nothing less than lunacy.” –Senator Ted Cruz
M enters my classroom on the first day of school tall and quiet and skinny. His eyes carry a haunted expression. 
M is a Syrian refugee. 
When I review his student file I read that he and his family had been in the country for only weeks before he entered school. There is no information about what he’s witnessed or experienced, just the date of entry into his new country and their new address. 
Several weeks into the year a friend observes my class and she sees what I see. M is withdrawn, quiet, sad. He doesn’t play with the others. When the others sing songs or play silly games, he sits down, removed from the group. He doesn’t warm up to anyone but me; he sits next to me on the rug every time, and he gets upset if someone tries to take his spot. 
He hasn’t even lost his first tooth, but he’s probably seen more horrifying things than I have. 
“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, verycarefully.”
C and G spent a year together in my class. They’re not related, but I’m pretty sure their families have been together for years, first in a refugee camp and now in their adopted hometown. 
They may not be blood relatives, but they’re family. C takes on the role of responsible big sister, while G is the mischievous little brother. They are both smart, hardworking, and polite. They love me and I love them back; even after I was no longer their teacher, they came back every morning to visit. I miss their morning visits in my new school. 
“If there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson, a front-runner in some opinion polls, said Thursday at a campaign event in Mobile, Alabama.
S and her parents and little brother came to visit school the day before school started. She entered the room the first time with a grin on her face; she still walks in every morning with that same grin lighting up her face. S is also a refugee, although she was not born in her home country; she was born in another country while they were waiting to be resettled in the U.S. 
S loves pink and purple. She draws a princess picture at least once every day. She loves stories and puzzles and helping her friends. She doesn’t let her language barrier stop her from communicating with them; she finds a way through words and gestures to make it work. 
“Something isn’t going right in this open-immigration policy. We are importing terrorism,” he [Mike Huckabee] continued.
I’m witnessing a great deal of cognitive dissonance these days. I go to school and teach my immigrant and refugee kids about the first Thanksgiving. We learn about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower and Squanto. We make turkeys and “plant” corn with fish like Squanto taught the Pilgrims. We learn about the Thanksgiving parade and watch the balloons expand and rise into the air. 
We learn about the Pilgrims settling here to make a new life for themselves. 
And then I watch the news or read a headline or go on Facebook. And there is hatred. So much hatred. 
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Unless you’re a refugee, we tell them. Then you don’t matter and you’re probably trying to kill us anyway. 
“As Governor I will oppose Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas.”–Gov. Asa Hutchinson
While American leaders and presidential candidates announce plans to refuse, reject, and deport refugees, France is planning to welcome 30,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years–three times the number that President Obama has said will be allowed to enter the U.S. 
“My view on this is that the safety and security of the people of the commonwealth of Mass is my highest priority.”–Gov. Charlie Baker
In the meantime S is still walking in every morning with a smile on her face. She’s recognizing more letters and making their sounds. She loves to come talk to me. 
“…I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” he [Gov. Robert Bentley] said. “As your governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”
C and G both love to read chapter books, and they’re excelling in school. Their teachers continue to rave about what good kids they are. 
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
And M? He’s still quiet, reserved, and holds himself back from others to observe what’s going on. But he’s also eager to help his friends. He raises his hand to speak. The other day he spontaneously began to dance with S during one of those silly songs he used to ignore. He still likes to sit by me, but he likes sitting with the other kids too. 
And his favorite thing to draw is rainbows.

1 comment:

  1. St. Louis welcomed and successfully integrated 40,000 Bosnian refugees several years ago. 40,000! That is FOUR TIMES the number of Syrian refugees Obama is planning to admit. 40,000, mostly Muslim, refugees in one city compared to 10,000 across the country.


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