Tag Archives: refugees

A Brief Message To Afghan Refugees Arriving In America (And My Fellow Americans)

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.

WJLA: ‘I feel relieved’: 200 more Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles Airport after Kabul bombing

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.

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Filed under Current Events, Uplifting Stories

Multiverses, Mutants, And The (Uncanny) Implications Of “Spider-Man: Far From Home”

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Anyone who has read more than a few comics, seen a few movies, or consumed more than a little sci-fi knows what often happens when multiple universes enter the picture. First, the overall story becomes bigger in scope, scale, and complexity. Second, a host of major complications emerge. Third, when done poorly, it becomes next to impossible to follow.

In terms of a larger narrative, it’s a huge gamble. It’s one of those plot points that is easy to mess up, not unlike time travel, wizards, or clones. Very few franchises, be they movies, comics, or TV shows, can make that gamble pay off. If ever there was a franchise that could make it work, it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Between the record-breaking box office of “Avengers Endgame” and the adulation of countless fans, including myself, Marvel Studios is uniquely equipped to make the concept of a multiverse work within its over-arching story. To some extent, it has to. The finality of “Avengers Endgame” means it will have to find some way to grow without the iconic characters that helped make it.

The stage has already been set for a larger multiverse to emerge within the MCU. Just as fans like me are finally recovering from the emotional upheaval we experienced in “Avengers Endgame,” the second trailer for “Spider-Man: Far From Home” dropped and, beyond dropping some heavy spoilers, it revealed that the multiverse is officially a thing in this world.

There are a lot of implications for this, many of which go beyond Spider-Man’s story in the MCU. As the trailer reveals, the universe-altering events of “Avengers Endgame” opened a literal and proverbial door to new conflicts within the MCU. These conflicts offer many opportunities for some of Marvel’s many cosmic characters, but I believe the biggest opportunity is for the X-Men.

I say that not just as a huge X-Men fan who has already written extensively about their potential in the MCU. I believe that Marvel Studios could reinvent the X-Men and the entire concept of mutants in a way that’s fresh, engaging, and very relevant to events unfolding in the real world.

Marvel and their Disney overlords have already reported that the X-Men will be rebooted into the MCU in the coming years under the skilled hand of Kevin Feige. However, the method and details of that plan have yet to emerge and chances are, it’ll be several years before we see that full-on reboot that X-Men fans have been pining for since Hugh Jackman hung up his claws.

Imagining Wolverine without Hugh Jackman.

Even for Marvel Studios, it’s going to be a challenge. How do you introduce mutants, an entire race of super-powered beings, into a world in which they’ve never been mentioned? In fact, thanks to conflicts over movie rights, nobody in the MCU could even utter the word “mutant” without incurring the wrath of Fox’s lawyers.

That’s a problem because in over 10 years of movies, TV shows, and tie-ins, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become populated with many super-powered beings that include gods, super soldiers, and teenagers armed with spider powers. On top of that, they already have a race of genetically modified people called the Inhumans, who basically acted as a stand-in for mutants at one point.

This complicates the whole premise of the X-Men. A big part of their story and their appeal is the parallels between mutants and real-world minorities. The X-Men emerged during the time of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and have since come to represent oppressed minorities from many eras, from racial minorities to the LGBTQ community.

That’s a tougher parallel to establish in the MCU because how can mutants be hated and feared in a world where Asgardians, super soldiers, and talking raccoons exist? Granted, mutants have a unique aura of unpredictability in that anyone could potentially be a mutant. Unlike the Inhumans, there’s no catalyst or radioactive spider necessary to activate their powers. They need only survive to puberty.

It’s still a stretch because the hate and fear of the 1960s is very different from that of the early 2000s century. It’s one thing to just be afraid and hateful of mutants. It’s quite another to craft killer robots to hunt them while ignoring entire populations of similar super-beings.

This is where the multiverse could enter the equation. With the proper sci-fi machinations, it could both bring the X-Men into the MCU while framing mutants in a context that makes them very relevant to contemporary issues. The key is linking the struggle with mutants with that of refugees.

Whereas discussions over minority issues have become somewhat predictable in recent years, debates about refugees have been much more heated. It has triggered protests, empowered populist uprisings, and caused a rise in xenophobia that far exceeds the old-school racism of the mid-20th century. These are the kinds of heated politics in which the X-Men thrive.

The “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer establishes that something happened in the battle against Thanos that opened the door to the multiverse. It’s easy to envision a scenario in which a population from a more hostile universe seeks refuge in one that is already used to super-powered beings.

It’s not difficult to imagine things getting that bad for the X-Men or mutants. Both “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “The Gifted” explored a world where mutants where hunted, imprisoned, and outright murdered. The comics also have a lengthy history of dystopian futures in which the X-Men could not stop humanity from hating and fearing their kind.

Then, just as things look hopeless, a doorway to another universe unexpectedly opens. Mutants suddenly have a chance to escape their rapidly-decaying world and start anew. It’s an opportunity many desperate and traumatized refugees seek in the real world. Their stories are full of horror and atrocity. It’s a story that resonates beyond the superhero genre.

In addition to providing a mechanism for entering the MCU, it also solves another critical issue with respect to narrative. It gives the X-Men a new type of story that hasn’t been told before in the movies. For the past 19 years, almost every X-Men movie has followed a similar formula.

Mutants are hated and feared.

The X-Men try to combat that fear.

Someone, often Magneto, tries to provoke a war between humans and mutants.

The X-Men stop that war from occurring.

It’s a story that has played out many times. Sometimes, it has been great. Other times, it has been god-awful. Just telling that same story again in the MCU won’t be enough. By making mutants refugees, the entire dynamics change in a way that could cause all sorts of upheavals that could impact many other MCU franchises.

One possibility.

Like real-life refugees, they come to a new world out of desperation, escaping horrors that they had no part in creating. The world they enter is inherently suspicious of them. They see them as strange, dangerous outsiders who could bring their problems to their homes. These are real concerns from people other than the reactionary radicals who often preach hate.

It’s one of those issues that has no good resolution. These people are victims of a war that they want to escape. They flee to wherever they feel they’ll be safe. Often, their options are limited and when an opportunity comes along, they have to pursue or die. If the events of “Avengers Endgame” somehow create such an opportunity, then why wouldn’t someone take a chance?

It would put mutants and the X-Men at odds with everyone in the MCU, from the Avengers to SHIELD to the average person still recovering from invading aliens in New York. It would also establish a clear divide that could one day manifest in a full-blown “Avengers Vs. X-Men” movie, which has already been teased.

All that being said, the powers that be at Marvel Studios may opt for an entirely different approach. In that case, everything I just described may be a moot point. This is just one approach that I found myself contemplating after seeing the “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” It’ll probably be a while before we know the full implications, both for the multiverse and for mutants in the MCU.

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Filed under Deadpool, Marvel, movies, Spider-Man, superhero comics, superhero movies, X-men