We weep at the tragedy that unfolded in the City of Light last week. Not just Parisians, not just well-meaning Americans, not just those in fear for their families and lives — all of us.
We dehumanize the people of Syria when we deconstruct their struggles, breaking down a complex situation into simply terrorists and victims. These are more examples of Western condescension. And even as the West reels from just a taste of these atrocities, the ideas of borders closing and immigration restrictions begin to form on the lips of Western politicians.
While we mourn for the lives lost in Paris, we must not forget that the refugees who continue to flock to Europe are fleeing a war. Their lives are in constant danger, their homes are destroyed and their cities turned into warzones. The people who attacked Paris may have been Syrian, or they all could have been French, but they really were terrorists. When European leaders begin to speak of closing borders and limiting refugees allowed into countries, they give in to the wishes of terror organizations.
We have become desensitized to the ongoing violence in the Middle East. We see the attacks on Paris as as an attack on democracy and on Europe, and the response measures we have already hazily outlined limit the safety of people fleeing exactly what happened in Paris. In the same vein, we can convince ourselves that it is our right, to restrict the flow of people attempting to escape the violence of which Paris has had only a glimpse. At this moment, no European or American would deny a French person the right to get out of Paris and into a safer and more secure area. And yet, after years of heavy warfare, we continue to deny Syrians that same right.
It would be both irresponsible and immoral for Europe to begin to enact border restrictions against refugees from the Middle East affected by the Syrian conflict. To shut down borders is for Europe to turn their back on the struggles of the non-Western, the non-European and the non-white. If the people of Paris are truly “Not Afraid”, they will show compassion to the people of Syria and those others affected by that conflict, and they recognize that it is harshness that creates terror, and compassion that abates it.
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Email Patrick Seaman at [email protected]