Wednesday, January 20, 2016

America- The Land of the Free or Fearful?

By Colette Whitney

Before the AGI program I took some time to explore Barcelona, Spain. During my stay in Spain I stayed at a hostel and was accompanied by people from all around the world including Australia, Brazil, Scotland, Germany, Canada, Israel, England, Argentina and Egypt.  When I explained to them that the purpose of my travel was to end up in Rome to take a class on the refugee crisis and forced migration, I got multiple forms of praise and intriguing questions about what I will be learning and doing. It was able to observe how every person had something to say about the issue, the majority wanting to know how they can help or how their countries have been helping. Not one person I talked to sounded afraid or intimidated by the topic.
It is interesting to be in a area that accepts refugees with open arms. Italy currently has almost 94,000 refugees right behind Germany who is hosting over 250,000. Then there is America, that is hosting over 267,000. Interesting, America is hosting almost the same amount of refugees as Germany, and America is 20x larger. Shouldn’t America’s refugee numbers outshine Germany’s? Why is it that America, one of the most powerful and influential countries is having such a pushback from this global issue?

If you have been watching the news or have been engaged in social media in the past couple of months, you will see that there has been outrageous government debates for accepting and not accepting  more refugees into the US. But why? Most people will respond with a  fear of a potential  terrorist attack, like what happened in Paris on November 13th 2015. These refugees are coming from corrupt countries and are therefore violent, right? The idea that these people are escaping their countries to leave the violence behind and start a new life completely goes out the window. A chart from the State Department, Migration and Policy Institute shows that since 911 America has taken in 784,395 refugees and only 3 have been arrested on terrorism charges. Eighty percent of the terrorist attacks since 911 have been from US citizens. So where is the real threat? Why is America so stuck in fear?

The problem with today’s society in America is that people will hear one bad story and it stays with them. The negative stories and facts tend to be the ones that most people talk about and share, especially when they are ignorant not educated on the topic at hand. So how do we change this? How do we educate more people on what is going on in the world and help make a positive impact? The more people understand the real issue of forced migration, the better chances we have on improving it. Here are a few ideas to start out with:
1.    Don’t believe everything you see and read on social media/facebook
2.    Read credible resources and stay away from Fox News
3.    Talk to others and spread/share information and ideas
4.    Learn about other world views

This is what we, the AGI program will discuss throughout the week a the AGI program. Stay tuned.