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Poem: There's No Going Back

- - - - - refugees terrorism immigration

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    Formerly Silentknight

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I have often asked myself, what if the situation were reversed?





There's No Going Back



O beautiful home, for thy future I pray

This land where my parents and siblings were born

Erupted in chaos that terrible day

Our Star Spangled Banner left tattered and torn

I've found myself pleading with God for the strength

To lift up my head, to continue to live

I've doubted and questioned my faith at great length

When silence was all that He saw fit to give

Ingrained in my mind is the moment they came

Their faces concealed like ghosts of the dead

They marched with a crucifix covered in flame

Their robes bearing stains where their victims had bled

I've seen what befell those who dared to resist

The smell of their death like a lingering breeze

Among them my neighbors, too many to list

Left mangled and hung from the branches of trees


Til now I believed that the Lord would protect

His faithful from harm, as my family taught

Their children from birth. Thus I'd never suspect

That years of devotion would all be for naught

The government wasn't a place we could turn

For safety or help-- they were just as extreme,

Corrupt and indifferent, their only concern

Was staying in power to save their regime

The cultists continued to carve out their path

And no one among us could halt their advance

For those who attempted would suffer their wrath

Convincing the others to not take a chance--

Unhindered, they killed without pause or regret

Invoking the name of the faith they pervert

To seize all the power and wealth they could get

And punish the ones who refused to convert


Forgive me, my neighbors, that I could not take.

My family couldn't survive there for long

May God bless and keep you, I pray for your sake

And hope the decision I made was not wrong

We gathered the last of the money we'd earned,

Whatever provisions could fit in a pack,

And left while we could, as the countryside burned

We knew, then and there, there was no going back

Though we weren't alone, there were others who sought

To flee from the violence that ravaged our land,

Who feared what would happen if they had been caught,

Not wishing to die by a terrorist's hand

Our passage was paid, an exorbitant sum

But freedom was worth every dime we could spend

With passports in hand showing where we were from

We thought our long nightmare had come to an end


The voyage was peaceful, a minor relief

I knew that the Lord kept us safe from above

Some solace was found in this simple belief

That He was protecting the ones that I love

Though life would be hard, I had faith as my guide

Our future awaited, we knew where to go

I held my wife close, and with her by my side

We'd settle somewhere that our children could grow

I thought, as they slept, they had seen enough war

To live normal lives, that was all I desired

To start in new jobs, like our ones from before

And given our skills, I was sure we'd be hired

Becoming successful as we'd always dreamed

With hard honest work, as our parents had done

As night turned to day, opportunity seemed

So close that it shone like the rays of the sun


We landed in Istanbul early that day

However, they told us to stand there and wait

I soon would discover the cause for delay

When customs officials had blocked off the gate

"You refugees hereby are ordered to leave!

Our nation has been under constant attack.

You have the same faith the extremists believe,

Return to your country, we're shipping you back.

You all look the same at a cursory glance

Regardless of whom you are claiming to be

The risk is too great, so we can't take a chance,

Our people come first, that's our new policy."

My desperate pleas fell upon their deaf ears

With no other choice, we could only comply

And loath to acknowledge the sum of all fears--

My loved ones and I had been sent back to die


  • Ungodly likes this

The new Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy: Massacre a crowd of civilians, draw a target around them, and declare they were all terrorists.



    Formerly Silentknight

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I wrote this poem after attending a symposium at my school about the refugee crisis.  I'll relate the details of it shortly, as afterwards I corresponded with one of the professors who spoke, but whose presentation I was not able to stay for during the second half of the lecture.


If the poem is confusing, such as why an atheist would write in this voice, there are a few reasons I did so.  The central theme is empathy, which is characterized by the ability to put yourself in the place of other individuals, and something many Trump supporters are completely devoid of.  For some reason, images and photographs of the civil war in Syria have not evoked the same reaction, the same outrage or sympathy, that famous images like the ones from the Vietnam War have.  I mean images like:




As an artist, I had to ask myself, what would it be like if the civil war were instead happening here instead of in a faraway country?  What if it affected an American family like mine?  What if they were Christian instead of Muslim, and what if the rest of the world prejudged them just because they superficially have the same religion as the terrorist organization that has been murdering tens of thousands of people?  What must it be like to have to flee for your life, to leave the country where you were born in search of a better life elsewhere?


If my poem were to reach a Christian audience, its intent would be to ask them to put themselves in the place of the Muslim refugees they spurn, and to ask themselves how they would want to be treated by others in that situation.  If my poem is being read by other non-religious people, its intent would be to show how religious prejudice leads to inhumanity towards other people; towards those who are just as human and deserve the same human rights and dignity as everyone else.

  • RIP Joe Bloe likes this

The new Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy: Massacre a crowd of civilians, draw a target around them, and declare they were all terrorists.

RIP Joe Bloe

RIP Joe Bloe

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Your poem and that photograph certainly gets the emotions running.

Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.



    Formerly Silentknight

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Here's the email exchange I had with one of the professors who spoke at the symposium.


The first email I sent:


I attended the first half of the symposium on the refugee crisis last week Friday, but was unable to stay for the second half.  I was the first student who asked a question during the Q&A session.  I had asked how I should respond to people, particularly to Trump supporters, with regards to the reasons the United States should admit refugees instead of turning them away.  While I appreciated the response, that I should show empathy and not condescension, I was still left wondering about how to explain the positive effect that resettling refugees could have on the country.  A student who asked his question at the end of the Q&A session wanted to know the same thing, i.e. the benefits of allowing refugees into the United States.

Unfortunately, just as Prof. Yaghmaian was giving his response, the audio on Skype cut out and I wasn't able to hear the answer.  I would very much like to hear what you had to say in response to this particular question, as well as what Prof. Castellanos said about the issue in his presentation that I wasn't able to attend.
If I had to explain the benefits of allowing refugees into the country, what should I know, and what should I say?


Professor Castellanos replied:


Thank you for attending the teach-in and your question.  I think if you had been able to stay for the second part, my presentation may have provided you with some information that would address your question.  I will try to provide you a synopsis.

First, as you know, there is a distinction between immigrants and refugees/asylum seekers. While there are problems with making such a distinction, the distinction is important.  Unlike immigrants, we do not take in refugees because we think they will benefit the country, rather we have an obligation to do so.  
Following the horrors of the Holocaust, the international community came together to ensure the promise of "Never Again" would be fulfilled.  This resulted in the signing of 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Convention on Refugees, and numerous other treaties, conventions, and accords on refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of human rights violations.  By signing and ratifying these, the U.S. has agreed and committed itself to provide refuge to those who are fleeing persecution, human rights violations, natural disasters, and other situations where they face peril and danger.  Because these treaties have been ratified, they have become part of domestic law so the obligation is part of U.S. law too.  

We are also obliged by our national doctrine of being a country of refuge.  Just look at Lazarus' poem on the Statue of Liberty.  We deny our history and heritage if we turn our back to those in need.
There is a moral obligation that is also often forgotten.  It is a direct or indirect consequence of U.S. foreign policy, American business, political, economic, and/or military intervention that has led to instability and violence in many of the places from which refugees come from.  Given U.S. actions, there is a responsibility to provide refuge to those whose lives were uprooted because of these actions.  This is especially the case in Central America and the Middle East.  

Last, even though we are purported to be a country that separates Church and State, there are religious obligations to welcome those seeking refuge.  The Bible is full of these calls, both in the Old and New Testaments.  One example is Leviticus 19:33-34.  Most other religious texts have similar calls to protect those who are in peril.  

So the question is not should welcome refugees and what benefit do they bring, but rather how many can we take.  On that question, the U.S. lags far behind other countries, both in gross number and the number per capita, despite its size and economic strength.  It is clear that we are not living up to our obligations.  
That said, refugees do bring economic benefits.  In the short run, refugees do cost the country because they do receive benefits when they first arrive.  These are minimal, however, amounting to about $2,000 per refugee to cover housing, food, clothing, and other essentials, plus some benefits (health care and language classes) for the first 90 days they are here.  They do have to pay for their flight here (which is covered by a loan by an international organization that must be repaid).  They quickly also have to find work.  In the long run, most economist agree that refugees provide host countries with an economic boom.   The pay federal, state, and local taxes.  They stimulate the economy by consuming, revitalizing areas in need of it, engaging in entrepreneurial activity, and providing labor skills that are in need (many of them have training in areas such as medicine, teaching, etc.).  

Again, however, it is not the economic benefit that should the reason why we should admit refugees (and more than we currently do), but rather our international legal and humanitarian obligations.  

Hope this provides a satisfactory answer to your question.


I wasn't going to use the Bible quote myself for obvious reasons, especially not a quote from Leviticus.  So I said:



I thank you for your detailed response.  However I should clarify the reason I phrased my question this way.  I have found, unfortunately, that appealing to people's morals in a debate on this and related issues, such as immigration, does not work.  When it comes to convincing hard-line anti-immigration and anti-refugee hawks, one can make all the moralizing arguments one wants, and it will not make a dent.  At the lecture, I had specifically asked about how to convince people such as Trump supporters.  Their minds tend to be made up with respect to moral arguments, given that they believe they have the moral high ground no matter what.  They believe the policies they support will keep their family and their country safe, that it will preserve their culture and traditional values, and what could be more righteous or virtuous than that?  I have had no success appealing to empathy, compassion, or religious ethics for this very reason-- they think they have a monopoly on such things.

For example, I have heard people like an Iraq War veteran say that we must treat all Muslims as a potential threat, because he's been in Iraq, and he was cursed and spit on by the Muslim civilians he'd been sent there to help.  On the opposite end, I have heard people who have never met an immigrant or a refugee make the same exact categorical dismissal, because it's easy for them to condemn and dehumanize others from afar.  To them, it is of no personal consequence if Muslim refugees are brutalized, oppressed, or sent back to die.  They say that America must come first, they have their own problems to deal with, and something that happens to a foreigner from a different culture is not their concern.
This is why I was more interested in an objective explanation of economic benefits.  I'm aware that this line of reasoning reduces the issue to numbers and statistics, but that's the avenue I have to walk, given that nothing else has worked.  When dealing with people like the ones I described, one has to figure a way to demonstrate how the issue directly affects them.  These are the same people who vote for candidates who make grand talking points about the national deficit, promise to cut social programs to save money, and yet also vow to increase military spending under the delusion that this alone will keep us safe.  I can't appeal to their empathy because their beliefs come from even baser emotions, such as greed and fear.
Nonetheless, I will look into all of the arguments and reasons you have brought up, and see how much headway can be made.


His final reply was:



The truth is that people who have decided that refugees are a threat will not be persuaded by any facts or logic, be they economic, legal, or moral.  They will ignore them and rely on selective anecdotes (sometimes fictitious) to justify their prejudice and dehumanization of other.  It is actually been shown that moral arguments rather than factual ones are more effective in persuading people.  

However, let me reiterate that the US has a LEGAL obligation to accept refugees, both in domestic and international law.  As many people on the right argue, we are a nation of laws that must be followed and we are legally committed to do this.  It does not have anything to do with morality.  But many of these people also claim to be Christian, so they should refer to their scripture and see that there is very little ambiguity on this issue.  But because their mind is made up, they will even dismiss the teaching of their own religion.  
Last, an issue of safety is misplaced.  The risk (a scientific measure) of being killed by a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is 1 in 64 billion.  The chance of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime is 1 in 12,000.  There are better things to worry about.  
 In sum, I highly doubt that you will convince anyone who is determined that refugees must be prevented from entering for whatever reason.  You might, however, persuade people who are undecided or don't know much about the issue.  I would encourage you to focus your energies with them. 


So yeah, you can't convince the deplorables, any more than you could convince a religious fundamentalist that their beliefs are wrong and harmful to others.  It's best to focus on the undecided middle, such as the economic Trump voters who fell for his false promises of jobs and healthcare, and who voted for him in spite of the racism, not because of it.

  • Cousin Ricky likes this

The new Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy: Massacre a crowd of civilians, draw a target around them, and declare they were all terrorists.

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