Why I Wrote A Smile in One Eye

Book Cover

During the fall of 2015, my wife and I took an extended trip across mainland Europe. This was a pleasure trip.  We were hiking.  As we went from place to place, there was something significant happening around us that we couldn’t help but notice.  The refugee crisis was escalating.  Thousands of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan were streaming across Europe in search of safety and security.  We watched the international news broadcasts each evening as they displayed image after image and discussed the many sides of the burgeoning, and often complicated, controversial refugee situation.  Throughout our trip, we met people from all over the world, and the conversation would frequently continue.  There were many varied opinions, sometimes finger pointing, and even a few heated exchanges.  It was and is a complicated issue.

On a few occasions, at train stations and on trains, we encountered groups of refugees trying to make their way north.  Most were headed to Germany.  And, in various countries, there were times we watched the police board our train and remove refugees from our midst.  We never felt danger.  We saw no disturbance.  What we watched were people striving to communicate through the medium of different languages.  We saw the stress, the toll that leaving one’s homeland takes.  Every interaction we watched between police and refugees was civil and polite; we never viewed anything less, only a silent procession of people in search of a new life.  We saw mothers, fathers, children, and groups of young men.  There was no avoiding this.  It was in our face, in front of our eyes.

I am the son of a refugee family.  Watching this crisis unfold gave me reason to consider my family’s journey to the United States and to telling this story.  In doing so, I have learned much that I did not know about this issue and my family.  I sympathize with the simple truth that today’s refugees become tomorrow’s aliens and recognize that can be a complicated topic too.  Of late, there has been much political discourse about refugees: where they should go, who should take them, the danger they could bring to our way of life.  Many believe that refugees and aliens may be wolves hidden in sheep’s clothing.  As with anything, I suppose there is truth in everything.

Common sense dictates that nations must concern themselves with their own internal security.  Who would argue against that?  It is a critical issue in today’s unsettled world that we must all care about. But it also is not unreasonable to suppose that some might overreact and generalize in their response.  Like most complex issues, usually the best answer is not as simple as it may first appear.

My book makes no claim as to who is right and who is wrong.  That’s not the point.  As some would say, I have no dog in that hunt.  I would only offer that most refugees, are people like you and me, except for that one single difference.  They were forced to leave the land of their fathers and mothers, and for most, this was through no fault of their own.  Many had created successful lives and have raised incredible families.  Now they hope to live with freedom, dignity, security, and opportunity.  They have made sacrifices.  They have traveled far.  Most ask only for a hand up and not for a handout.  Most, given the chance, offer more than they would ever take.  I have compassion for these people.

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