Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

in Conflict and Society

The violence in Syria that every day forces tens of thousands of people from their homes and homelands, giving them no choice but to further risk their lives in seeking a place of refuge, is a violence those refugees can do nothing about, and we who observe their tragedy at a distance also feel powerless to prevent. Yet, though we live in countries where there is no war, we and our governments perpetuate a social violence against those refugees that masks its xenophobic origins with rationales as self-serving as those produced by the regimes that bomb, torture, starve, and stigmatize their citizens in the name of preserving law and order. Blaming refugees for their own misfortunes, reducing them to a single undifferentiated mass of alien otherness, and persuading ourselves that our own life and liberty would be in jeopardy were we to admit them into our midst, we apportion our compassion with discriminating care, mourning the loss of a single child whose body washed up on a Turkish beach while treating millions of others as potential criminals and usurpers.

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