There are some news stories that I go out of my way to avoid. It’s not that I actively ignore them. I just prefer not to discuss them because I either have nothing of value to offer or they’re just way outside my expertise. In some instances, the story itself is just too tragic and depressing. Talking about it only belabors how miserable things are and how bad they’re bound to get.
That’s why I haven’t said anything about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Believe me, I have opinions about it. I’m reluctant to link to articles about it because every aspect of this story is just too awful for words.
We all know the basics. After nearly 20 years of occupation, the United States is leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban has already taken over. Basically, the country is back to where it was 20 years ago, ruled by a collection of extreme religious zealots who seek to govern and oppress like 7th century warlords.
It’s an objectively terrible situation. There’s no other way to describe it.
However, there is one part of this horrific story that is worth highlighting and it’s actually somewhat uplifting. It has to do with refugees, a subject I know sparks some extreme opinions among certain segments of America.
Now, this issue hits a little closer to home for me, personally. I grew up in a pretty diverse community. Many of my neighbors were either first or second generation immigrants from various parts of the world.
Just a block from my house was a neighborhood full of immigrants from Korea. Not far from that was a neighborhood with a sizable Nigerian population. A few miles away, there was a neighborhood full of Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants. There were also a few stores that catered specifically to Spanish speaking people.
That was my normal. Every time I went to a mall or crowded area, I was bound to hear at least two different languages. It also showed in my school. I’ve always been around a large mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. In fact, whenever I traveled to areas that were predominately one race or ethnic group, it felt weird.
Growing up, I just came to associate this with America being a melting pot. This was not a country defined by one particulate race or ethnic group. Yes, many of the Founding Fathers were old rich white guys, but the nation they set up accommodated many people from many different nations. To me, that wasn’t just a distinct trait. It was a defining characteristic.
That’s why when I heard stories about refugees from Afghanistan arriving in America after such an arduous trip, I found it oddly uplifting. In fact, it was the first uplifting story I’d heard from this geopolitical tragedy.
It helped that some of them arrived in areas that I was familiar with. Very recently, hundreds of refugees arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC. That’s an airport I actually know pretty well, having flown out of there numerous times on trips and transfers. Some of the stories these people have told is nothing short of harrowing.
Here is a story of just one such arrival.
Roughly 200 Afghan refugees arrived at Dulles International Airport on Thursday afternoon.
Their arrival came hours after deadly suicide bombings outside the Kabul Airport. Thirteen U.S. were killed in the blast. Afghan officials told The Associated Press that more than 140 Afghans were wounded.
An organization, known as Team Hope, assisted them. According to United Airlines, United has operated three international missions, with the fourth departing shortly, in total carrying nearly 1,500 U.S. citizens and Afghan evacuees to the U.S. over the last four days.
United says they are working with “a number of non-profit and corporate partners to ensure our passengers are well-cared for both during and after their flights land.”
In addition to this story, I also found this photo on Reddit of a family from Afghanistan arriving at that same airport. Seeing them arrive, flashing peace signs after coming from an actual war zone, was incredibly uplifting. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to look up these stories and see images of these people as they arrive from one of the worst situations imaginable.
What makes this image more personal is that I’ve actually walked that exact same area of Dulles. If I went there now, I could find it with ease. Knowing what these people went through and how hard they worked to come here gives me a small sliver of hope for this country and our future.
In that spirit, I’d like to offer a brief message to these incoming refugees, as well as my fellow Americans. There’s a good chance one of them will end up living in a neighborhood not far from mine. I hope that day comes. I will gladly welcome them with donuts and coffee. Even if I never meet them, I’d like to offer this sentiment.
Welcome to America.
Thank you for fighting so hard to make it here, leaving behind everything you knew in order to start a new life. I sincerely hope that the lives you build here, both for yourselves and your children, are better than anything you dreamed of.
I truly cannot imagine what you went through. I’ve never been to a war zone. Very few Americans have. I can only imagine the horrors you’ve seen and the hardship you’ve lived. I won’t pretend to understand. All I can do is help you and your family look forward.
I won’t claim that America is a perfect nation. We certainly have our flaws. Most Americans are wonderful, loving people. However, we do have an angry, vocal minority who will try to make you feel unwelcome.
Do not listen to them.
Do not let their hate keep you from realizing the American dream.
Take comfort in the knowledge that these voices are only loud because they are so few. Take even greater comfort in the knowledge that the number of Americans who will stand by your side will vastly outnumber those who would do otherwise. We can be a strange, erratic people, but our hearts are usually in the right place. Give us a chance and we’ll help you become proud Americans, like our ancestors before us. It’s because of what you’ve overcome that you embody the best of what America can be. Let that be your strength as you build new lives in this new land.
Having said that, I also have a far shorter message for my fellow Americans. I know we are a very diverse and divided people. There are many out there who, because of their politics and their prejudices, will not welcome any refugees from any country that doesn’t remotely resemble them. To you, I just have one thing to say.
Don’t be assholes. Every nation has assholes, but these people have been through enough. Give them a chance. Let them prove that they can be the kind of Americans that will truly make this country as great as we all want it to be.