Of Lunacy and Rabid Dogs


“[The] idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America — it is nothing less than lunacy.” –Senator Ted Cruz

M enters my classroom on the first day of school tall and quiet and skinny. His eyes carry a haunted expression. 

M is a Syrian refugee. 

When I review his student file I read that he and his family had been in the country for only weeks before he entered school. There is no information about what he’s witnessed or experienced, just the date of entry into his new country and their new address. 

Several weeks into the year a friend observes my class and she sees what I see. M is withdrawn, quiet, sad. He doesn’t play with the others. When the others sing songs or play silly games, he sits down, removed from the group. He doesn’t warm up to anyone but me; he sits next to me on the rug every time, and he gets upset if someone tries to take his spot. 

He hasn’t even lost his first tooth, but he’s probably seen more horrifying things than I have. 

“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

C and G spent a year together in my class. They’re not related, but I’m pretty sure their families have been together for years, first in a refugee camp and now in their adopted hometown. 

They may not be blood relatives, but they’re family. C takes on the role of responsible big sister, while G is the mischievous little brother. They are both smart, hardworking, and polite. They love me and I love them back; even after I was no longer their teacher, they came back every morning to visit. I miss their morning visits in my new school. 

“If there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson, a front-runner in some opinion polls, said Thursday at a campaign event in Mobile, Alabama.

S and her parents and little brother came to visit school the day before school started. She entered the room the first time with a grin on her face; she still walks in every morning with that same grin lighting up her face. S is also a refugee, although she was not born in her home country; she was born in another country while they were waiting to be resettled in the U.S. 

S loves pink and purple. She draws a princess picture at least once every day. She loves stories and puzzles and helping her friends. She doesn’t let her language barrier stop her from communicating with them; she finds a way through words and gestures to make it work. 

“Something isn’t going right in this open-immigration policy. We are importing terrorism,” he [Mike Huckabee] continued.

I’m witnessing a great deal of cognitive dissonance these days. I go to school and teach my immigrant and refugee kids about the first Thanksgiving. We learn about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower and Squanto. We make turkeys and “plant” corn with fish like Squanto taught the Pilgrims. We learn about the Thanksgiving parade and watch the balloons expand and rise into the air. 

We learn about the Pilgrims settling here to make a new life for themselves. 

And then I watch the news or read a headline or go on Facebook. And there is hatred. So much hatred. 

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Unless you’re a refugee, we tell them. Then you don’t matter and you’re probably trying to kill us anyway. 

“As Governor I will oppose Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas.”–Gov. Asa Hutchinson

While American leaders and presidential candidates announce plans to refuse, reject, and deport refugees, France is planning to welcome 30,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years–three times the number that President Obama has said will be allowed to enter the U.S. 

“My view on this is that the safety and security of the people of the commonwealth of Mass is my highest priority.”–Gov. Charlie Baker

In the meantime S is still walking in every morning with a smile on her face. She’s recognizing more letters and making their sounds. She loves to come talk to me. 

“…I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” he [Gov. Robert Bentley] said. “As your governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

C and G both love to read chapter books, and they’re excelling in school. Their teachers continue to rave about what good kids they are. 

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

And M? He’s still quiet, reserved, and holds himself back from others to observe what’s going on. But he’s also eager to help his friends. He raises his hand to speak. The other day he spontaneously began to dance with S during one of those silly songs he used to ignore. He still likes to sit by me, but he likes sitting with the other kids too. 

And his favorite thing to draw is rainbows.


11 thoughts on “Of Lunacy and Rabid Dogs

    • Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi January 5, 2016 / 6:25 am

      Not true. African Americans didn’t begin their lives in the USA as refugees, but as slaves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Invisible Mikey January 6, 2016 / 11:42 am

        Thank you for the clarification, Phyllis. The two terms are not exclusive. Many slaves were refugees too, taken captive during tribal conflicts in West Africa and sold by whoever was winning, but I apologize for using the word too broadly. My point was that most current Americans families have a foreign origin, so xenophobia (what the re-blogged article is about) is inappropriate.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. phillipscd November 24, 2015 / 11:24 am

    Well done. The politicians you quote are incapable of seeing the human, rather than political, nature of the “refugee crisis.” Your piece raises the question to the proper level. Have posted link on my Facebook page. Keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everyday Voices November 24, 2015 / 11:40 am

    Reblogged this on Everyday Voices and commented:
    Since our ‘leaders’ are not leading in the kindness and compassion department, it’s incumbent upon ourselves to show kindness, love and tolerance to refugee families. It is incumbent upon us to make them feel welcome in our schools and communities. Instead of being treated with suspicion, they should be cared for. Bravo to this teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. stevenmsinger November 25, 2015 / 7:55 pm

    This is such a good article! I love how you interposed your classroom observations with media soundbytes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. someluckydog November 28, 2015 / 1:56 am

    I know you love these children and your post is heartfelt. But please understand that none of these candidates or governors are referring to these children or their families. They are talking about the young, unmarried men who make up the vast majority of the current refugees. They are talking about using due diligence in knowing who these individuals are before allowing them entrance into the United States, not keeping them out forever because of where they came from, their religion, or their skin color. Like it or not the reality is that these refugees fit the profile of known terrorists whose aim it is to kill Americans and others in western cultures. It would be fool hardy to allow entrance without thorough screening. Many of our ancestors came to America as refugees (mine included in 1897 and 1907), but they were screened for disease and mental fitness. They had to show they were able to provide for themselves or had someone here to help them assimilate and had no communicable diseases. Many were quarantined for a period of time. Americans are compassionate and will help those that need it, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our own safety. I agree with the men you’ve mentioned that automatic entrance is not an option we should offer. Certainly we could offer aid in providing safe havens (including basic human needs and schooling, maybe you could volunteer!) until individual backgrounds are verified.


  5. melhpine November 30, 2015 / 8:40 pm

    Beautifully done. My father was an immigrant, and I grew up in the 1950s with great love for that Emma Lazarus poem. It disgusts me that so many want to forget it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. observer December 19, 2015 / 7:02 am

    Regardless of who the statements of politicians may be targeted at, comments such as those referred to lead to increase oppression. For every thousand oppressed, how many will one day become radicalised to try to strike a blow against those who they see as their oppressors.


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