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159: Refugee Redemption

Recovering from no power for four days following a terrific snow storm (though grateful for a plug-in generator), I think about how much we take for granted.  We assume we’ll have light by flicking a switch or can be entertained by computer or TV whenever we choose. We’re accustomed to having sufficient heat in winter and a stove that will cook our dinner. Most of us have a roof over our heads and a cozy place to sleep.

But this is not true for many. We forget about the others. We don’t think often, if ever, about the 108.4 million refugees world-wide who have been forced to leave their homelands and don’t have light switches let alone anything else. Nor do we consider how long they are refugees. The average length of time is twenty years. Twenty years without a home! Twenty years of uncertainty about where your next meal will come from. Can you imagine that?  Can you really put that in your mind and keep it there long enough to do something to help? We don’t all regularly donate to UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, or to the IRC, international Rescue Committee, or to any of the other reputable agencies doing life-saving work. But we should.

This morning in The New York Times I read and saw pictures of Afghan refugees forced to leave Pakistan and return to Afghanistan which they’d fled to avoid crime, starvation, malnutrition, and economic collapse due to the Taliban takeover. Including infants, children, and women, the refugees shown had no water, no food, and essentially no belongings.

Those of us with water, food, and houses tend to see refugee and immigrants as different from us, yet, only a few generations ago most of us were immigrants. We can’t imagine being forced to leave our country, our home, our jobs. We can’t imagine living under severe persecution, facing threats, torture, death. Nor could today’s refugees, until it happened to them.

In the same day’s news was another article about immigrants from South and Central America who live in the woods in New York’s The Hamptons–yes, you read that right, in the Hamptons–where billionaires live in 100,000 square foot mansions on private acreage with ocean views. But these immigrant laborers live in hidden forests in hand-made “tents” throughout the freezing winter, owning next to nothing, cooking on open fires, sleeping on the woodsy ground. They are laborers for the Hamptons’ super-wealthy, often not paid as promised, with no affordable housing (78% of 2-bedroom rentals in that area cost $6,000 a month!). In fact, some of the billionaires I referred to in my April 14 posting, Money, Money, Money!, are among those ultra-wealthy Hampton residents. How fair is this? (And don’t tell me “Life isn’t fair” because we’ve the ability at least to make it fair-er if we want to).

Then there are the immigrants crossing our southern border, many of whom are escaping poverty, robbery, beatings, terror, rape, and death, and most of whom merely seek safety and a job to take care of their family. 10 million attempted to cross between 2019 and 2024, among them women and children. Many of them were sent back by U.S. authorities. U.S. Immigration is a complete mess; an intelligent plan to fix it is desperately needed. A bi-partisan bill to do just that failed to pass, so it seems unlikely Congress wants to solve this devastating situation. But last I checked we are still a democracy so it’s up to each of us to light a fire (metaphorically) under those we elect to get something done! All our reps and senators have email and telephones. Let’s swamp them!

In any case, we each need to do something. Perhaps we write or phone our congressmen. Perhaps we volunteer to help charitable organizations. Perhaps we donate money to reputable organizations doing the work we can’t do. But what we can’t do is call ourselves human beings if we just sit back and ignore the deplorable suffering of our fellow beings–who happen to be refugees.

Remember that old saying, sometimes called a golden rule, found in some form in all significant religions, philosophies, and wisdoms?  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So, figure out what you’d like done to you if you were a refugee and do it for them.

Refugees  24" x 24" oil on canvas $975 by Gwendolyn Evans

Refugees  24″ x 24″ oil on canvas $975 by Gwendolyn Evans

Artwork:  Refugees  24″ x 24″ oil on canvas $975. This is my newest piece, just finished today. It grew from my reading about the world-wide plight of refugees. It is a vast sorrow I cannot wrap my heart around, so I make art to express what cannot be stated.

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