Hating the Hate and the Syrian Refugees
Countless posts expressing hatred toward Syrian refugees in particular and Muslims in general have been finding their way onto the social media. There is also a growing number of posts rejecting the expression of that hate and talking of unfriending and blocking people who post publicly about hating Muslims. Those who abhor the hatred seem to hold in contempt those who lump all Muslims together into one homogenized blob of humanity undeserving of charity or refuge.
We were originally inundated with gushings of sympathy toward the desperate Syrians, but not the desperate Africans, each seeking respite from their respective hellholes as they emerged (dead or alive) from Mediterranean waters or as the former were photographed traipsing across land toward Europe. Many people, even some here in Israel, wrote about wanting to adopt a Syrian family.
Then, as stories of rape and other crimes and misdemeanours committed by refugees started to leak out of Germany, voices began to question the sanity of opening the borders of Europe to poorly vetted asylum seekers claiming to be Syrian refugees. At the same time, Obama, and then Trudeau, talked of admitting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States and Canada.
Since the multi-terror attack in Paris on Friday, the voices horrified by the numbers of Syrian refugees already in Europe and slated for admission to North America grew louder and hatred started to raise its ugly head.
I think part of the hate being expressed now is abject FEAR. I live in a country that has been experiencing knifings and car rammings almost daily for over 2 months and it is darned difficult to keep fear from turning into hatred. I struggle with it and mostly I succeed, but many do not. When you jump at any sound behind you while walking on the street, when you feel the hair stand up on your nape as a bicyclist peddles by, when you walk as far from the curb as possible and stand behind a bus stop shelter rather than under it, it is very difficult not to hate the source of this relentless fear.
Many people do not see any reason to fight that fear-turning-into-hatred thing. In fact, hating that which threatens your life and security is probably a very natural biological instinct. Just as having an “us-them” attitude toward people is a very natural biological phenomenon. Distinguishing between “us” and “them” keeps groups cohesive and this cohesiveness is needed when fighting an enemy. And we saw precisely that phenomenon in the changing tides of regard toward the Syrian refugees. When they were only viewed as desperate victims of civil war, even as Muslims, they were “like us” and they were not seen as a threat. But once stories of crime broke, and then the terror attack took place, they became “them”, a violent Islamic enemy and fear is a natural response to this.
Not to feel fear in face of terrorism may be reasonable for some people, and not to hate may be divine. However, these may also be expressions of PC-ness, naivety, smug I-am-better-than-you-ness, self-deception, and more. Only the individual can know upon what inner position his or her opinions and statements are based and nobody can tell another that his or her feelings are wrong.
Fear is a normal human emotion and I agree that it should be tamed and decisions not made from a position of fear. I also think that some charitable thoughts should be extended to those who are today reacting out of fear and for whom that fear comes out as hatred. For some of these people, this is their first confrontation with terror up close (or right next door, which is pretty up close) and they need time to digest this. For others, this is a confrontation with terror that tells them that 9/11 was not an isolated incident.
Please don’t put these people on the defensive – it will only make it harder for them to digest all of this new information they are being bombarded with. And when they will have had time to synthesize it all, they will begin to see the Syrians as a group of individuals of all kinds and not an indistinguishable mass of terrorists.