Blog #17: What Do You Think about Syrian Refugees?

The Vineyard Gazette, Dec. 3, 2015

The Vineyard Gazette, Dec. 3, 2015

I am walking down east 10th street in New York city. It is 1959. The snow is already gray from the exhausts of so many cars. I don’t care. I am on a mission. My grandmother’s orders.

“Look for Uncle Morris,” she wails. “I beg him to come to Hartford to live with us. Over and over I beg him. But he never answers. Maybe he’ll listen to you.”

I scan the addresses on the doors of the dilapidated rooming houses one by one. And just as I am about to approach number 249, a man bent and broken shuffles toward me. I know it’s him because my grandmother has a picture stuck in the mirror of her bureau. The shock of white hair, the ruddy cheeks and those shoulders that slump under the weight of heavy memories are unmistakably my Gramma’s baby brother. 

She told me he turned prematurely white when they shot his wife and baby daughter in front of him. She said they kept him alive because he could copy handwriting. So forging papers became his job while he was a prisoner at Dachau, the second concentration camp that was liberated at the end of the war.

This is what I keep thinking while the Republican governors today are calling for closed borders, feeding into the fear by talking about the danger of Syrian refugees, the threat of Muslims period. Uncle Morris is what I keep thinking.

It’s bad enough that they won’t acknowledge that the 2003 Iraq invasion ripped apart the Iraqi state and allowed for the extremism we are experiencing today. How can they not see that the Syrians are running away from terrorists; that they are the victims?

My friend Julius is wary. He says, but you don’t know if there’s a terrorist hiding among the thousands who are coming in.

I say, for God’s sakes, it takes 18 months for these people to be vetted. Do you really think the one suicide bomber is going to get on a over-crowded boat, risk life and limb, pay a smuggler $1,000 so he can wait for almost two years, practically starving, in a freezing, overcrowded tent so he can slip into Chilmark and fulfill his death wish? And don’t you think the way to keep radicalization from happening is to give to these lost souls? Shelter, food, kindness, open arms? Wouldn’t that melt their intention to destroy?

Julius shakes his head at me and says you’re naïve. You’re a pathological optimist. You’re in denial.

I say, I wouldn’t even be here if someone hadn’t convinced Roosevelt and the rest of the ones who said, no Jews, don’t let them in. So how else can I thank whomever it was who made the decision to act not out of fear but from a place of compassion? How else to express my gratitude? What a great way for me as a Jewish-being to heal these ancient tribal hatreds by opening

He says, yeah kindergarten innocent. You have to be smarter than that Nancy, he says.

I don’t want to be smart, I say. I want to be kind.

He is almost yelling now. You can’t trust everyone.

Why not I say. Why not?

PROMPT: What do You think About Syrian Refugees?

1. Write for ten minutes without stopping, thinking or censoring yourself.

2. Post your writing in the comments below this post.

3. Include what classes you've taken (and when) and a short bio if you like. 

4. PLEASE comment on this piece and the writing of each other. We all know how that feels! Just hit the "reply" icon on the top at the right within their comment so it posts right underneath the writing. 

If you have any trouble posting a comment, please feel free to get in touch with Cissy: and she will help you.