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I see that abortion is in the news again. Of course, abortion never really seems to be out of the news lately. And that is especially true during this political year when bombast, broken facts, and heated rhetoric foul the air more than usual. This time the news involves a piece of Florida legislation. Or, more accurately, a piece of proposed legislation that would ban all abortions, making them a first degree felony.

It has only been passed out of one committee and into another so far. And, from what I have read, is unlikely to survive the legal birthing process needed for a proposal to become law.   More political fluff to satisfy the anti-choice crowd. What I find of interest though is part of this proposed legislation’s wording, words that seem to be in line with what many of the more radical anti-choice crowd are now pushing.

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Leaving aside the problematical solely religious justification for this law, I wonder if those who promote such ideas have really thought through the implications of what they are proposing. A few years ago I did a satirical piece related to the problems involved in this concept of a fertilized egg being a human life fully equal in rights to those already born. I thought I would now revisit this issue in a more Socratic way, by posing a series of questions.

To start with, let’s explicitly state what is being claimed. Those promoting this law and other similar ones are stating that a fetus from its conception is fully a person and has rights equal to those who have already been born. That an egg, once fertilized by a sperm, automatically becomes legally a person with all the rights attendant upon that designation.

Let me respond by asking those who support these personhood amendments and laws some questions.

Do you intend then to appoint the fetus with legal counsel to represent its right to life in those cases where continuing its life would put the life of the mother in jeopardy?

  • For example, do you mean to make a pregnant woman with an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg is implanted someplace other than the uterus, wait for that life-saving abortion until the court obtains legal counsel for the fetus and a trial is scheduled and the rites of justice gone through? By the time that is done the mother will likely be dead.
  • Would you support a court ruling in favor of saving the life of the fetus even though it would cause the death of the mother? Even if doing so would be against the expressed and fervent wishes of the woman? If not, then what is your justification since, according to you, legally the two have the same exact rights?
  • What do you think the reaction will be by the vast majority of Americans if a court should ever rule in favor of saving the life over that of the woman, even when the woman does not wish that?
  • A follow on question if you doubt a court would ever rule this way, why not? Do you think that this says something then about the relationship between the rights of the woman and that of the fetus?

Since you are believe that a fetus has the same right to life as an already born human, then what is your proposal for saving all of those persons who die between six to 12 days after being conceived. About 40% to 65% of fertilized eggs never implant in the uterine lining and instead die (usually before a woman even knows she is pregnant). Given the truly heroic measures we take to save people, what is your proposal to save all of these persons who are dying in their thousands?

Given that you believe that a fetus is a person with the full set of rights as an already born person, how to you propose to ensure that pregnant women do nothing to jeopardize the health of that person? I have already seen court cases against women who miscarry, but that number is actually rather small compared to the number of women who could be tried for manslaughter in cases of miscarriage.

  • Are you now going to do a legal investigation into every miscarriage and prosecute every woman who does not follow each and every rule or good practice?
  • What would be your ruling in the case of a pregnant woman who is in a car accident that is her fault that kills the fetus? Would that be considered involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide? And if so, should she be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in that case?  If you believe she should not be, then why not?
  • Are you now going to require that pregnant women be hospitalized the moment she knows she is pregnant so that the health and life of the fetus is not endangered in any way?

These are just a few of the questions that come to my mind when these proposals for making a fetus a person entitled to the same rights as the woman and in equal measure are proposed. There are many more, but I think these should give those of a thoughtful nature cause for caution in making the fetus a separate and equal person to that of the pregnant woman. Such an action flies in the face of reality, and laws based on flaunted reality are not merely bad laws, they are disastrous laws.

Recently we had a confederate flag flap when our annual stock show parade banned the battle flag of the Confederacy (but still allowed the original national Confederate flag).

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Around the same time a letter was printed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram from a Ms. Barbara Kirkland strongly defending the flying of the Confederate flag. Part of that letter helped bring further into focus the reasons why I do not defend this flag nor its flying by any government agency.

In her letter she states that her ancestors “fought for the Confederacy” and “I’m proud that when the call came to stand and defend the South they heeded the call”.

Their “call” was to defend a rebellion against their own country – the United States of America. Now, rebellion is, at times, justified if the cause is good and just. But, in this case the cause was the exact opposite of good and just. Many issues were involved in causing the Southern States to try to dissolve the union, but the chief and foremost of them was the issue of slavery. The treatment of other people as nothing more than property, with no more rights than a cow or horse. This was the root cause of why the Southern states rebelled and tried to break up the union.

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Yes, most confederate soldiers did not own slaves. Yet they supported the government who broke away from the union that protected their “right” to own a person if they wished or were economically able.

Just like we don’t honor the Nazi heritage of Germany just because most Germans were not Nazi’s and not involved in killing the Jews, so too should we not be honoring this part of Southern heritage by flying any confederate flag. It is a part of our heritage that should be condemned.

This letter writer, and those who think like her, have the right to fly that flag if they so wish. However, no government entity whatsoever, at any level, whether city, county, state or national, should be flying any version of the Confederate flag. And I will protest any that do.

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Despite what they may believe, the heritage they are “celebrating” and the cause for which this flag stood for were traitorous and, worse, condoned barbarous actions against the dignity and worth of humanity. This flag is worth honoring just as much as the Nazi flag – not at all.

A Tale of Two Aliens

Sometimes some points can best be made with stories. They can provide both some distance while also providing an emotional connection. Here is my attempt at doing so through a parable.

 

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a planet, Vegaria, which was the envy of the galaxy. Vegaria was a rich planet with plenty of resources and a high standard of living.

Twenty years ago, Vegaria was viciously attacked by one of the planets in a nearby solar system, OOminia. Fifty million Vegarians perished on the day of the attack, which leveled an entire continent. Vegaria had launched a counter attack and exacted revenge upon the OOminians. Vegaria then focused itself on rebuilding, and now there is little trace of the attack left, except in the memories of the Vegarians.

There are 6 planets in the OOminian solar system, all of them inhabited by OOminians. While the inhabitants of some of the planets in the solar system are very aggressive and violent, most OOminians are peaceful.

Now, thanks to the successful counter-attack from Vegaria, the OOminians are pretty much confined to their own little solar system. The aggressive OOminians have overtaken all the planets in their solar system. The peaceful OOminians, who allied themselves with Vegaria after the attacks, now live in a continuous war zone, afraid to even step outside of their homes for fear of being conscripted or, worse, of being imprisoned and killed.

Other planets in the galaxy have tried to help the peaceful OOminians, helping them to escape and providing a place of refuge for them. Some of the refugees have even made their way to Vegaria and been granted admission as refugees. At the same time, however, the aggressive OOminians have been sneaking out of their solar system and launching guerrilla attacks on other planets. Citizens of Vegaria fear that OOminia will launch another attack upon them.

Two OOminian refugee families have settled in a large city on Vegaria. They both have found jobs and are trying to make a home for themselves and their families on what is to THEM an alien world.

It is very easy to identify OOminians. While Vegarians are quadrupeds with heads at the end of an expandable neck, OOminians are amorphous blobs that ooze from one place to another by means of extending pseudopods from their bodies. OOminians are also very slimy, and carry slime applicators with them wherever they go to keep their skin from drying out in the atmosphere of Vegaria.

One of the OOminians, Poth, finds a job with a company that has a diverse group of employees, including many other aliens. The other OOminian, Jav, finds a job with a different company that doesn’t hire many aliens. All of Jav’s co-workers are Vegarian.

Poth feels very welcome at his company. Poth’s manager tells him that she isn’t familiar with the OOminian culture and that she will depend on him to help her learn about it. At staff meetings, she makes a point of asking Poth how certain situations would be addressed on OOminian planets. Poth is frequently invited to dine with his co-workers, and he sometimes joins them after work for drinks. He even joins the company basketball team, where his ability to extend his pseudopod to great heights makes him a very popular player.

Four times a day, OOminians have to do a ritual called spreading out, where they extrude several limbs from their bodies as far as they can and then slowly re-absorb them. The ritual takes about 20 minutes. After trying to complete this ritual quietly in the limited space in the men’s restroom, Poth talks to his manager who secures permission for Poth to perform his spreading out in privacy in a large storage area.

Jav’s workplace is different from Poth’s. Her coworkers make a point of wiping their hands after shaking hands with her pseudopod. Sometimes they hide her slime applicator—when Jav mentions this to her manager, the manager tells her that the co-workers are just kidding. A couple of times at staff meetings, Jav tries to make suggestions based on her experiences on OOminia, but her manager quickly shuts that down. “We are not on OOminia,” her manager says firmly. “You need to learn how we do things here.”

Jav also has a difficult time finding a place to perform her spreading out ritual. Co-workers complained after they walked into the women’s restroom when she was performing the ritual, so she asks her manager for ideas on where she could go. The manager shrugged. “I have no idea,” she replied. “I’m not even sure we should be letting you do this on our property or on company time. I’ve heard complaints from the others that you are getting special treatment. Maybe you should clock out and go home to do your little thing.”

Not wanting to cause trouble, Jav starts leaving at lunch and goes home to complete her ritual. She doesn’t really mind because no one ever eats with her anyway. Everyone moves away from her when she enters the lunchroom, and if she tries to sit next to someone, they quickly get up and leave. Her manager tells her it’s because of her body odor.

Because she can only clock out of her job once during the day, Jav performs her spreading out ritual 3 times a day instead of 4. It makes her uncomfortable, especially since her co-workers still hide her slime applicator on a regular basis, so her skin frequently develops large dry spots.

Meanwhile the aggressive OOminians continue to attack other planets, including some in the Vegarian solar system. People on Vegaria become very concerned about the possibility of another attack from Vegaria on their own planet. Some people demand that OOminians living on Vegaria be registered and put into special camps, or even exiled from the planet. Random groups of armed Vegarians begin standing guard outside of houses where OOminians live, keeping armed weapons pointed at the doors. “We’re keeping an eye on the oozers,” they announce loudly. “They can’t bomb us if they can’t leave their houses.”

Poth’s manager talks to him about it. “How are you and your family doing?” she asks with concern. “I know things are pretty unpleasant right now.” Poth confides that he had to walk through a group of armed Vegarians that was stationed outside his house when he came to work that morning. He had actually kept his kids home from school because he was concerned for their safety. The next morning Poth answers a knock at his door to find a group of his co-workers standing outside. “We’re taking you to work,” they say. “And some of us will make sure your kids get to school okay. Those wingnuts will have to go through us to get to you.”

Jav, however, steps out of her house on the same morning and is also met by a group of armed Vegarians. To her horror, she recognizes some of her co-workers among the group. She steps back inside and calls her manager to let her know she can’t make it in to work. The manager tells her that she won’t be paid for the day.

Jav hesitantly tells her manager that some of her co-workers are part of the armed group surrounding her house. “They are on their own time,” the manager says curtly. “They took some vacation time. They have a right to do whatever they want on their own time.”

Jav hangs up and goes to her computer to look through her messages, including several from friends and relatives left behind in the OOminian solar system. She reads through them, answers and deletes them in turn, except for one from a distant cousin. He has been estranged from Jav’s family for years as he is a member of the OOminian military and has been a key figure in several of the recent attacks on other planets. However, she finds herself reading his message over and over again. “Hi cuz! I hope you are okay. I hear things are kind of uncomfortable for OOminians on Vegaria right now. If you are having any problems, let me know. I might know some people who can help.”

Jav nervously extrudes a pseudopod and reabsorbs it several times. Then, slowly, she begins to type. “Dear Cousin, thank you for your note. Things are very scary here right now. I would really appreciate your help.

Six months later, Jav’s manager stares bleakly at what is left of the building where she used to work and shakes her head at the reporter. “I can’t believe it was Jav,” she says. “She was always so quiet. She had a couple of problems when she first got here, but once she settled in, I never heard anything from her.”

“What about her co-workers” the reporter asks. “Did she get along with them?”

“As far as I could tell. They were always joking around with her.” The manager bows her head. “I just can’t believe they are all… gone.”

Daesh, al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist groups claim that the United States is waging a war with Islam. That we hate Muslims and that our religious liberties are for Jews and Christians only, not Muslims. That Muslims are a hated and second class citizens, at best, within our borders. These claims are part of how they manage to gain recruits, highlighting our supposed intolerance of Islam and Muslims and casting this as a religious war of self-defense on their part.

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For the most part, we have avoided playing into that scenario of theirs internally. American Muslims are among the most integrated of any countries. However, now we are letting our fears and biases provide an element of truth to the terrorist claims, making their propaganda and recruitment efforts even more effective.

With the rise of hate crimes against Muslims in America, talk of internment camps, registries, and such what do you think would happen to those Muslims who truly do love the US and are proud to be citizens? Imagine if this were to happen to Christians here, what would happen to your loyalty to the US? What if your religion were demonized and reviled, you and your family and friends viewed with suspicion and often outright hatred? What if friends and family who are Christian living outside the United States could no longer visit you?

I know that these proposals are not in place…..yet. But they are being talked about and too many Americans are thinking them a good idea. Along with the fact that too often when mosques are being built they are being protested, that even Islamic cemeteries face an uphill fight to get city government approval to be created, when protesters armed with guns march outside your mosque – how safe would you feel in your own country? American Muslims make up the single largest group providing tips to the FBI on possible terrorist activities. What do you think would happen if that should cease?

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And in foreign affairs, this sort of rhetoric and these actions would be devastating. Our Muslim allies such as Jordan would cease to be allies. Our European allies would, justifiably, revile us. If a small percentage of Muslims based largely in the Middle East and Africa can create this much harm to us, imagine if the percentage were larger – or even to become the majority worldwide?

Carpet bombing Daesh with the huge loss of civilian and innocent life would indeed destroy the military capability of Daesh. But it would also give Daesh a huge propaganda win, feeding life into its Frankenstein creature of an American war on all of Islam. Our allies in the region would turn into our enemies. Muslims worldwide would decry the loss of innocent lives. And, if we made the sands glow, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, even our European allies would denounce us.

The short term destruction of Daesh’s military capability would be hugely offset by the fact that they would have won the propaganda war and would gain millions of new adherents and sympathizers. And take a good look at Paris – does that sort of action really require a country to support it? They can work underground and with the sympathy and help of millions of other Muslims, Muslims that had opposed them before, they can create even greater havoc and chaos more frequently.

This language, these proposals, these possible actions are just what Daesh and the other Islamic terrorist groups want. They want us to act out of fear, to violate our own supposed morals and principles, and create a reality in which more Muslims than ever would flock to their banner. There are many signs that Daesh is having a harder time recruiting Muslims. These actions and this rhetoric can turn that trend around for them. Trump, Cruz, and others as doing exactly what the terrorists want. Far from fighting terrorism, they are helping it.

And the above is just the practical reasons why all of this rhetoric from Trump, Cruz and too many conservatives is harmful. Just as important, in fact even more important, are the moral considerations.

We are holding people accountable for the actions of others due solely to the fact that they belong to the same religion. Not because they helped those responsible for their terrorist acts (the great majority denounce and condemn them). Not because they shared the same exact religion – like Christianity there are many forms of Islam, some good and some evil. Not because they even shared the same nationality or origin. Just because they share the same religion.

This violates all of our principles and morality. Our constitution requires that there be no religious test for office. The same principle should hold true here too – no religious test should be used to condemn a person. Especially not an American citizen.

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This is not the only supposedly American principle this hateful rhetoric and proposed actions violate – innocent until proven guilty comes to mind too. Extreme gun rights people argue, correctly, that law abiding gun owners should not be blamed for the actions of those who use guns to kill (note: I do not intend and will not be drawn into a gun control debate here as that would take attention away from the central message). Yet, they seem to, as a group, to be one of the groups who have a hard time applying this to other situations – law abiding Muslims should not be held accountable for the actions of those who are not.

Our current political climate and the rhetoric and proposals coming mainly from the conservative and Republican side are helping the terrorists. Ironic that. And scary too.

 

A Blog to Satisfy a Critic

I have a very conservative critic (whose views and thoughts match many of the extreme right) who claims that I always and only criticize whites and Christians. Never Islam, never non-whites.

Not true.

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What my critic does not understand is that when I post blogs about gay marriage and rights, when I post blogs about women’s rights, abortion, and on and on and on, that even though I may be addressing them to Christians it applies to all groups within the United States. And out of the United States even.

I focus on the United States because that is where I and my family live, and where my grandchildren will grow up. I address Christians because they have the numbers and hold the political power and are the main threat to such rights here in the United States. But it applies to all.

When I criticize those who attack Islam here in the United States, what my critic does not understand is that I am protecting their rights as American citizens and in so doing protecting the rights of all Americans. When I point out that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists and are good citizens my critic does not understand that this does not mean that I agree with their views and beliefs.

My defense of Sharia courts in the United States is a good example. I often do not agree on how they may rule in issues of divorce or women’s rights. However, I also do not agree with many of the Jewish and Christian courts that operate within the United States that also rule on these issues based on their beliefs. However, as long as they do not violate US law and the Constitution, then they should be allowed as part of our freedom of religion and of conscience. Defending their right to do so is a very different thing from agreeing with their views. My critic often does not seem to understand that.
What my critic does not understand is that I have criticized Islam before, in different forums and venues.. For example, in one blog about blasphemy I did so.

I will not call Islam evil, which is what I believe my critic wants. I will not because it is not. It can be evil, it can be good. Just like all religions.

What my critic does not understand is that a religion is what its followers make of it. There is enough material both good and evil in all sacred works, enough history both good and evil in all religions that whether a religion is evil or good is dependent upon how its followers put that material together – what they find central in its writings, what they find inspiring in its history. And such creations vary not only between different times, groups, countries, and regions, but even between individuals.

When I discuss motives and causes of terrorism and violence, what my critic does not understand is that I am not excusing such behavior but seeking to understand it so as to come up with the best way to either stop or reduce it. Without understanding good policies cannot be reliably formed and acted upon. Instead harmful actions that may feel good but actually work to make the problem worse happen.

What my critic does not understand is that my comments are tailored to the problem and issue at hand. My critic does not need to understand the deficiencies of Islam or the problems within the black community. What my critic needs is to be reined in as he puts too much emphasis on them – to the point of becoming very misleading – and given some perspective. My critic paints with too broad a brush and holds all Muslims accountable for the actions of a few. My critic sees blacks as almost solely responsible for their own problems and solely responsible for solving them.

What my critic does not understand is that I focus on what I see to be the bigger issue not being addressed. Islam is in no danger of taking over the US and Muslims do not pose a danger of stopping gay rights and such. Therefore I concentrate on the Christians who are.

Black already know and are working on the problems within their community. However, white privilege and the past history of racial injustice also has a large role to play in our current racial problems and needs to be addressed. Without them being addressed true racial equality and justice will never be achieved. Something that many do not acknowledge, and so I address it.

 

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That is why, although I know that there are problems within much of the black community that they need to work on to improve, and that there is much within Islam as practiced by most Muslims that I strongly do not agree with, I do not dwell on those with my critic. It is not needed within the context of our discussion. What is needed is the other side, the one that presents a fuller and thus more accurate picture of reality. And, in so doing, provides a better basis for finding true solutions.
Since my critic has such a hard time understanding all of the above my critic sees me as never criticizing non-whites or Islam, and believes my views to often be cowardly. As I said, not true. I am not afraid of criticizing Muslims and Islam (and have done so), nor am I afraid of guns. However, my views are more shaded and complex than my critics. And thus more in tune with reality.

Of course, I realize that I have mistitled this blog. And knew it from the beginning. This blog will not satisfy my critic as my critic will continue with their simplistic views of reality and how it works, and their view that a hammer as the all purpose tool that will fix all problems. But, that is OK. I am satisfied with my views even as I challenge them and change them as evidence indicates.

I am both saddened and enraged at the cowardice and lack of humanity being shown by too many Americans today, many of them Republican politicians.

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So much for being the home of the brave when we are too cowardly to provide shelter and protection to those coming to us for help from horror and abuse.

So much for being the land that says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” when we turn away those in need.

And why are we so willing to give up our shared humanity, our ideals, our empathy and what had been considered deep seated beliefs? Two reasons.

First, Paris was attacked by Muslims, and the refugees are Muslim. Never mind that the vast, vast majority of Muslims condemn these terrorists. Never mind that these refugees are also victims of the same people who attacked Paris.

You would think that the victim of our enemies would be considered sympathetically and efforts made to help them. But too many Americans are refusing them, vilifying them and even comparing them to rabid dogs. They want to kick out any Syrian refugees already here and refuse any more. Men, women, and children. No matter that they have nowhere to go and that returning to Syria would result in their deaths.

Second: a Syrian passport found near what remained of a dead terrorist. From that many have made a leap to concluding the terrorists are coming in with the refugees. Never mind that all the other terrorists were French and Belgium, many of them being born and raised in those countries. Never mind that the mastermind was not a refugee and was instead a Belgium, being both born and raised there.

And never mind that the passport was likely faked, and the possible terrorist was not a Syrian refugee, as discussed in this Wall Street Journal article.

And why, one might ask, would a terrorist organization wish to plant a passport to stir up fear and animosity against the refugees. The reason is simple, it is because the vast majority of Muslims are against them and their terrorist tactics. It is because they know that most Muslims do not believe as they do. And so they set it up where we, in our fear and ignorance, will act in such a way so as to push the moderate Muslims into their arms. They want us to do the work of radicalizing the majority of Muslims, and in so doing grow their ranks for them.

And we, cowardly, ignorant, fools that we are, gladly do so. Governors are refusing to house the refugees. Republican Presidential candidates, supposedly bright and moral people of courageous convictions talk of not only not taking more refugees in but sending those we do have away. Others wish to use this as a pretext to take away the rights of some Americans, those who are Muslim. Warrantless searches, making them wear a special ID, refusing to build new mosques or tearing down ones already built. When it comes to Muslims and refugees our fears are turning us into Nazi’s

And in our fear of the terrorist, we wind up helping them recruit new followers. We make their lies about us true.

Religious liberty! Hah! Only for the Jew and Christians. They can live by their laws as they wish. But not the Muslim. The U.S. wants to ban them from doing so.

Religious liberty! Hah! Only for the Jews and Christians. They can build churches and synagogues where they wish. But Muslims trying to build a mosque face protests and refusals. Even the attempt to create a Muslim cemetery resulted in protests and a massive effort to deny them.

A land of hope and opportunity, a haven for those in need. Hah, they turn away hurt and crippled children. Unless they are Christian.

Some talk of the risk that a terrorist may sneak in among the refugees. They say that we need to ensure that the US has a proper vetting process to keep the terrorists out. This includes all manner of politicians and presidential candidates.

Ignorant fools.

Our vetting process already takes 18 to 24 months. As this Atlantic Monthly article discusses, this includes background checks by the UN Commission for Refugees as well as background checks by every intelligence and security agency the U.S. has – Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Defense Department and others. In addition to these background checks these refugees face multiple interviews as well as a physical exam. This is the most secure and thorough vetting process we have.

The result of this vetting? Of the 784,000 refugees that the U.S. has accepted since September 11, 2001 only three people have been arrested for terrorist activities. “None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas.”

So I call bullshit on all of those governors and Republican presidential candidates who say we need to examine and modify our vetting process, that we don’t have one. They are in the position to know better and should. They are using the politics of fear to gain power.

As for those who are buying into that fear and hatred – get informed. Don’t stay so ignorant – it is a disease that can be cured. Do not let your fears and bias keep you blind.

People such as the Syrian refugees are why we have a refugee program, so that we can live up to the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Words that we have a dismal history of failing to live up to, but one that I hope we will someday.

So despite our ideals, despite our extensive and successful vetting, despite the desperate need we say, “No, never mind all of that. We reject you, we deny our shared common humanity, we deny our own stated ideals and values. We are instead afraid of you, of refugees such as the family whose five year old daughter lost a leg in the violence in Syria and whose 11 year old son lost two fingers. No, we quiver in fear and turn a blind eye to you and with a cold and hardened heart turn you away, reject you. Just as we have done other refugees in the past.”

And in so doing, in so saying, we provide immeasurable help to the enemy, the violent Islamic extremists.

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Unlike France which has announced that even after the attacks they are not only still committed to taking in 20,000 refugees but will now take in 30,000 Americans seemingly have no moral courage and empathy for those in need.

Fools. Cowardly fools.

There is a conservative meme going around about Syrian refugees that claims that almost all of them are men and that they are cowards. It is wrong on both counts.

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First off, if these conservatives would quit relying on photos of doubtful origin and whose circumstances are unknown and instead spend a few minutes doing the research they would discover that according to the UN Refugee Agency that about half the refugees are women. Also, about half the refugees are also under the age of 17.

Now, where the conservatives are partly right in regards to a predominance of male refugees is in regards to those attempting to cross the Mediterranean by boat in order to get to Europe. Those refugees are about 70% male. However, this includes all refugees whether from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Africa. And even here, there is a good reason why they might be mostly male refugees – such crossings are extremely dangerous. I would think that the picture of the drowned three year old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore earlier this year should be plenty of evidence for why it is mostly men who cross the water in leaking and unseaworthy boats, with the idea of bringing their families over in a safer way once they have established a beginning.

That is not cowardly.

But this only deals with part of the reason why conservatives call these Syrian males cowards. An argument made by the ignorant is that these men should be staying and fighting for their homes and lands and that the fact that they are not shows that they are indeed cowards. To be quite frank – that argument is pure bullshit, and ignores both the reality on the ground in Syria, on human nature, and on the nature of war and violence.

What sparked this blog is an article in the October 26, 2015 issue of the New Yorker. Their reporter at large piece by Nicholas Shmidle, titled “Ten Borders”. It is a story about one refugee, Ghaith, a law student who escaped from Syria and into Sweden. And, appropriately enough, it is about a male who left his wife behind. It nicely tells why this meme is so very, very wrong.

To start, I rather like this quote in regards to illustrating part of the reasons why Ghaith did not stay and fight, and it perfectly illustrates the simplistic nature of the conservative meme and their naïve and simplistic ideas about revolutions and wars.

Ghaith saw the war as “a battle between two losing sides”. He told me, “Each side thinks that you’re either with them or against them. My family was not with any side. We just wanted to get by

The two big sides in Syria are, of course, Assad and ISIS – a brutal dictator and an even more brutal Islamic terrorist group. Neither are likely to inspire trust and loyalty. In addition there are the Free Syrian Army, Jaish al-Fatah, Islamic Front and many others. How do you choose a side when all are bad and all are fighting each other?

Further, most people are not military. Ghaith was a law student studying criminal law. He is a small man, just over five feet. Once conscripted he would become a good candidate for a dead man. Or, even worse in his words, become a”killer” instead of a “victim”.

What made it even more complicated is that he is an Alawite, a religious minority group who some rebel groups target and assassinate. Why? Because Assad’s family are also Alawites. You might think that he would thereby receive some sort of protection or favoritism from Assad’s regime because of that link. However, his family has not been a fan of Assad. One of Ghaith’s nieces posted a comment on Facebook that “condemned a barrel bomb attack by the Syrian Air Force on civilians in Homs. Government agents snatched two of Ghaith’s friends off the streets and took them away”.

A lone man fighting many different well armed mutually antagonistic groups is not going to live long. To believe otherwise is to believe in a delusion.

Ghaith initially resisted fleeing Syria due to concerns about his mother and his wife. However, as the pressure mounted for him to join the military both his wife and his mother strongly urged him to flee as he was the one greatest at risk. The idea was that if he could get out and settle someplace he could send for them.

“She’s coming, too” he said after reaching Sweden, though he acknowledged that it would take time. Sweden provides a family reunification program but only for asylum seekers with residency status.

I had already mentioned that Ghaith managed to reach Sweden. Looking at this deceitful meme you would think such journeys are easy to do. However, it took Ghaith several tries, tries which often ended in failure and difficulties.
At the international terminal in Beirut his forged passport failed to pass inspection. As a result:

He and about fifty other foreigners shared a dark cell, sleeping on the floor. They had to defecate in buckets…. Naim Houry, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said that some refugees had been kept there for “weeks, months, and even years” while awaiting deportation. One day, Ghaith watched, horrified, as a pregnant prisoner fell to the floor, blood pooling around her.

A friend who had also been caught and detained had teeth jerked out with pliers and his back was covered in cigarette burns. Another friend died while in detention.

I won’t go into the details of Ghaith’s efforts, but each step provided its own challenge and dangers. Smugglers are expensive and often untrustworthy. Refugees are subject to beatings and rape. And, of course, dying. “The smugglers behaved like jail wardens, Bahaa added, “throwing us around left and right””.

One trip by boat was cancelled due to the Turkish Cost guard seizing the first two boats that had set out.

Another boat did set out. But it was overloaded and small, and the seas rough and turned back. When it reached shore the captain jumped and ran while the craft sped into the shallow water and its “propellers jamming on rocks”.

Escape is not safe. That seems to be something the promulgators of the above meme and others like it ignore. Is it cowardly to leave your family in a place that is relatively safer while you go to find and create a better place?  I don’t think so.

What also struck me is that despite the dangers as well as the rejection and anger the refugees encountered they also encountered many people along the way who provided food and shelter, directions and helpful advice to the refugees – Turks, Greeks, Hungarians. People recognizing fellow humans in desperate need.

As for now, Ghaith is intent on becoming Swedish. Other than friends from Syria who had also made it out, Ghaith “cared little for Syria anymore. Once his wife arrived, they would have children and he would raise them as Swedes. He didn’t care if his kids spoke Arabic. He added in broken English, “I worship Sweden.””

In short, the Syrian refugees are not predominantly male. They are not cowards. They are human beings fleeing an impossible situation with the same hopes, desires, and dreams as ourselves. The human dream.

Around the same time, Austrian authorities found an abandoned poultry truck with seventy-one dead refugees inside. Ghaith said that he couldn’t help but feel lucky: “I made it, while thousands of others didn’t. Some died on the way, some died in Syria. Every day, you hear about people drowning. Just think about how much every Syrian is suffering inside Syria to endure the suffering of this trip.” He paused. “In Greece, someone asked me, ‘Why take the chance?’ I said ‘In Syria, there’s a hundred-per-cent chance you’re going to die. If the chance of making it to Europe is even one percent, then that means there is a one-percent chance of your leading an actual life.’”

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