As Indiana citizens have discovered, our Governor’s mean-spirited decisions aren’t limited to issues affecting LGBT Hoosiers. His efforts to reject even a handful of desperate Syrian refugees (mostly women and children and men over 60) is a case in point.
Fortunately, Pence doesn’t speak for all Hoosiers—or even for most of us.
I recently was contacted by Sam Harnish, a Hoosier from Northern Indiana who is part of a newly-formed group in Michigan City, “Citizens Concerned for Syrian Refugees.” He described it as an effort to provide some portion of needed help for 10 million refugees.
As he put it, 10 million of anything is impossible to comprehend.
Is there any way to visualize 10 million people? Perhaps it helps to say that that 10 million people are the combined populations of Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington D.C., and Wyoming. There are 10 million refugees or internally displaced persons in Syria.
I cannot grasp the reality of life for those 10 million people. I watch the news. I see the pictures of the camps. I try to imagine being driven out of my home by war. There they are: men, women, children, and babies. All trying to survive, all seeking safety, all looking for a safe place to live – and winter is upon them.
Most, but not all, of these 10 million people are Muslim. Civil war and ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh (choose your favorite acronym) force families to flee regardless of religion. These 10 million people are human beings – human beings in need – and fellow human beings must respond to others in need when we have the ability.
Harnish draws a parallel to the classic “Grapes of Wrath.”
When the book “The Grapes of Wrath” was published, a newspaperman in California (Frank Taylor) tried to prove that the conditions described in the book didn’t exist. Many people today insist that there isn’t a real problem in Syria, or that America didn’t have anything to do with it. That is made easier because we don’t see what’s happening until a three-year-old child’s body washes up on a beach in Greece, or Hungary builds a fence to keep refugees out… in Syria today, as in America in the 1930’s, there are millions of innocent human beings who need help. As human beings with the ability to help, we must.
Harnish’s organization has compiled a list of charitable organizations working to ameliorate the plight of Syrian refugees, and has investigated to determine which ones are the most cost-effective stewards of donations.
If you are interested in helping, you can contact Harnish at Sam_Harnish@ameritech.net, or call him at (219) 879-3265.
There’s a yiddish word that describes people like Harnish: mensch. It means “a real human being.” Too bad one of those doesn’t occupy the Governor’s office.