from Drinking Wine: 7 by T’ao Ch’ien

Color infusing autumn chrysanthemums
exquisite, I pick dew-bathed petals,

float them on that forget-your-cares
stuff. Even my passion for living apart

grows distant. I’m alone here, and still
the wine jar soon fills cups without me.

Everything at rest, dusk: a bird calls,
returning to its forest home. Chanting,

I settle into my breath. Somehow, on this
east veranda, I’ve found my life again.

translated by David Hinton

Wow, America and WowWow, the EU: thoughts on the Syrian refugee crisis

I’ve been reading articles by mostly American columnists and the US State Department, as well as other related articles over news agencies and, of course, in the Turkish Press since I do live here, explaining the causes of the Syrian conflict and bemoaning the escalating refugee crisis.  At present there are over 4 million refugees in neighboring countries, though mostly, I might add, in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. One columnist made the comment: ” However, State Department officials believe that the U.S. has a responsibility to help innocent victims of war. Despite concerns, they have said it is likely that the U.S. will admit up to 2,000 more Syrian refugees by the end of the year.”

Of course, since January, 2012 to the end of February, 2015, the U.S. admitted a total of 335 Syrian refugees, which is pretty far from that overly generous pledge to admit 2,000. And as paltry a number as that might seem to anyone when keeping in mind that 4 million refugees are in camps or scattered throughout cities and villages in those neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordon, the UK has accepted only 143 in that same time period. Of other EU countries, the seemingly most sympathetic has been Germany which has pledged 30,000 spaces, though I can’t seem to find any record of just how many of those spaces have actually been filled.

Now if I read correctly, that means the U.S. will admit up to, but not exceeding, a record number of 2,000 Syrian refugees by December 31, 2015, which is only a mere 8 months away. Wow! Isn’t that magnanimous of the State Department. I mean, what with the risk that some of those defenseless women and children might be “terrorists” which is why they are hesitant to admit more, they are really being quite generous. Careful screening, huh, Homeland Security officials? Make sure you do the necessary background checks. Wouldn’t want to be like Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon, Iraq, or Egypt that have actually been a bit more liberal in opening their borders to the displaced people of Syria. Granted they are neighboring countries, but the sheer number of displaced persons demands that more countries share this burden. Even Antonio Guterres, the UN Commissioner for Refugees, has said that EU members should “focus less on protecting borders and more on protecting people” and build solidarity by sharing the burden of hosting Syrian refugees.  This naturally goes for the United States, too.

Instead, that beacon of freedom whose inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to be free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” has decided to open  its arms, its “golden door”, to less than 0.05 % of the estimated refugees already huddled in overflowing camps now, and who knows how many more will join those ranks by the end of 2015.

Now the biggest concern for the US in taking refugees in is the potential for terrorists slipping in with the rest. Of course it is better for the US to encourage other countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordon who have approximately 4 million refugees already to take that risk and though there doesn’t seem to be any refugees detonating bombs inside those countries yet, there are many problems to deal with when that many people come across your borders with little on their backs and no apparent way to support themselves. The countries who are taking in those refugees are sorely taxed financially trying to give them the basics to sustain life. And the situation in those refugee camps and city streets will only get worse as more and more Syrians come streaming across the borders.

Current figures (March 31, 2015) place the number of people from Syria in need of Humanitarian assistance at 12.2 million people, including 5.5 million children. Of course the U.S. has, since 2012 through March 31, 2015, given $3,679,166,061 in aid, which is more than any other foreign country. This is one thing the U.S. has always been good about: spending money to try to fix a problem. And though that money is desperately needed to help not just the refugees in neighboring countries whose resources are being strained, but also displaced Syrians within their own borders for food, clothing, shelter, health care including vaccinations, education, etc. This money, though, coming from the U.S. and also EU countries still falls short of what the U.N. has appealed for and, in and of itself, will not solve the problems ripping not just Syria but the Middle East apart.

I am not in favor of any type of warfare but unfortunately there is a war being fought here in the Middle East and it will continue to rage on and spill over more borders since there is no real solution to it in sight. This goes beyond ISIS and the civil war in Syria and the overflow into Iraq. This region’s stability has been upset and part of the blame lies at the doorstep of the United States who toppled a government in Iraq under false pretenses and set the stage for groups like ISIS to form.  Therefore, unless the U.S. and other foreign governments stop trying to push the burden of the fighting onto neighboring countries already overwhelmed by this crisis and send more than money to that war-torn region, it will never end. This is not going to go away and money alone, even airstrikes, cannot make it end. And all nations must put aside their petty differences, their conflicting agendas in this crisis and get to work to cooperatively fix this problem. It only benefits all humankind to do that.

“Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards (one’s) fellow-men…” (Chapter16, Verse 90). That may be from the Qur’an but similar beliefs can be found in the New and Old Testament of the Bible which means Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe in the same things: doing good and justice.  It is time for the world to act as if they actually are all members of a United Nations and bring an end to this horror being experienced by innocent people in the Middle East. And maybe afterwards these same nations can turn their attention to the trouble spots in Africa and other places in the world and begin to do the right thing where it is necessary. Who knows? Maybe then nations can start to look inward and solve the problems festering within their own borders of racism, poverty, the abuse of women and children, etcetcetc. I mean, just maybe we all can begin to act like God’s children and start loving each other regardless of what we look like or how we worship or what gender or sexual orientation we have. Now wouldn’t that be something? It isn’t too much to really ask for. It all begins with ourselves.