(photo from peacechild.org)
First off, it's utterly ridiculous, even by intent. While a small minority (13%) of those who inhabit Syria are Christians, these people are for the most part Muslim Arabs who happen to reside in a "manufactured" political entity called Syria, which didn't even exist until it was part of the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, in 1919 at Versailles. Before that, it languished for centuries as part of the Ottomans' vast land holdings that spread north into the Balkans and east and south from what is now Turkey, going all the way down the Arabian peninsula and over into Egypt. In '07 I was in Syria and shopped at the Souk Hamideh in Damascus, so named after the last Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The Ottoman presence is still pervasive in Syria, which was under French control from 1920 until 1936, when it gained independence. By ethnicity, language, culture, religion and history, the vast majority of Syrians are the same as their fellow Arabs throughout the middle east.
Trying to single out Syrian Arabs from their brethren in the rest of that post-Ottoman region is a fool's game, as the only token of their Syrian status is a piece of paper called a passport. For an Arab of Syrian residence to obtain a fake passport is an easy task, so I doubt very seriously that a determined terrorist from Syria would have much trouble entering this or any country with a passport that makes him a Jordanian, a Saudi Arabian, or any number of other national identities that are essentially Arabs first, nationals second. Meantime, thousands of the most miserable human beings on the face of the earth, most of them--contrary to what that breathtakingly ignorant presidential contender Ben Carson has said about most refugees being young males--are women. The number of males aged 18-59 amounts to 21% of the total.
Meantime, the United States has accepted a relatively tiny number of Syrian refugees since the civil war there started in 2011. So far we've taken in 1,500 of the nearly 4 million who have fled. Upping the ante a bit, President Obama has authorized a total of 33,000 refugees to be admitted this year from the "Near East/South Asia," which
|We Can Find Space For These Folks|
We're A Big Country With A Big Heart
(photo from geographyeducation.org)
Taking in refugees is so definitive of the essence of America that arbitrarily rejecting a whole class of them because of the awful nature of a handful who can probably slip through the system anyway is a pretty crass rejection of our own identity. Tightening up the process is probably long overdue, but saying to those who, like me, were once the "wretched refuse" of their native lands "no, you can't come because of who you are" is a heartbreaking turn, a hardening of our hearts, a sorry capitulation to our most reptilian fears.