The ‘Homeless Veterans and War Refugees’ Meme: A Veteran Wants You to Read His Reaction

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Refugees vs Homeless Veterans meme

[Editor’s Note: C Patricio Trent — whom nobody on the OJ Blog staff likely knows personally — is a veteran living near San Francisco.  He posted this message to Facebook on November 23, asking that his readers share it.  But not everyone is on Facebook — and Facebook itself tends to be ephemeral.  So, as we exit this month in which the Syrian refugee crisis and our understanding of it has burgeoned — and then met with the meme seen above —  we’ll post it here where Google will be always be able to find it.  It’s long, but it’s really worth reading.]
I have been seeing a lot of stuff like this in my feed lately. I have a couple of things to say about it: I am a veteran, I have close friends and family who are both veterans and still on active duty. The army was, without a doubt, a shit job, but the best part was forming bonds with some of the best people you’ll ever meet, who I consider to be somewhat of an extended family. I don’t take veteran’s issues lightly. We do have a problem with veterans receiving proper care for both visible and invisible wounds as well as the fact that a disproportionate number of the homeless in the US are veterans. This however, is a failure due to the fact that the VA is micromanaged by congress as well as a general failure of our society to provide proper social and mental health services, not just to our vets, but to the population at large.When I see memes like this, I find it disingenuous as well as insidiously xenophobic, racist and spiteful. Here’s why:We are the richest and most powerful nation in the history of civilization. We spend close to $700 billion a year on the pentagon and we’ve managed to spend an estimated 2 trillion dollars on war over the past decade. Taking care of homeless veterans would be peanuts in comparison to our discretionary defense budget. The cost of resettling refugees is negligible to tax payers. The main work of resettling refugees is done by 9 different non-profit organizations (5 Christian, 1 Jewish and 3 secular) that work with the state department. The rest of the costs that are spent by the exhaustive vetting and processing of refugees come from the state department, DHS and FBI, but still are so small, you wouldn’t be able to find it on a pie graph of our spending. The false dichotomy that we need to choose between taking care of vets and help resettle refugees is a pile of horse shit.

The other toxic insinuation I hear often is that refugees are lazy terrorists who just want to collect welfare checks and kill us all. These people are fleeing the worst war of the 21st century. In Syria, if ISIS doesn’t kill you, the murderous dictator of Syria or the Shiite militias will. It’s so bad, people have cashed out their meager life savings, taken what they can carry and left their homes with no idea where they will end up or whether they or their children will make it there alive or not. Most Americans will never ever know what it’s like to go through that hell. However, our great-great grandparents did. They left their homes and families and came here fleeing famine, poverty, political instability, religious persecution and war. When they got here, they were blamed for crime, disease, sedition, laziness, barbarity, drunkenness and terrorism. (Just google, “Irish American” or “first red scare” and don’t even get me started on how Jews and blacks were treated.) We’re trying to turn away refugees fleeing a brutal war under fear they have been infiltrated by ISIS, we’ve turned away holocaust refugees under the fear they had been infiltrated by nazi spies but we’re here because the door wasn’t closed for our ancestors when they came.

The idea that “the flood gates are open” to an army of terrorists posing as refugees is a trope that is repeated ad nauseum by fear-mongering demagogues and is completely untrue. The vetting and processing of refugees is exhaustive and thorough. First, the have go through the UNHCR, then the State Department, homeland security and the FBI. They are interviewed, fingerprinted and have to go through background checks. The whole process takes up to two years. You can get a degree from DeVry quicker and easier than a refugee can receive asylum in the US. We’ve resettled 3/4 of a million refugees since 9/11, not one has been arrested for terrorism. Despite the horrible events of the recent attacks in Paris, you’re chances of dying in a terrorist attack are tiny. Also, the Paris attackers were EU citizens, not Syrian refugees. In the US most acts of terrorism are done by native born, right wing extremists, not foreigners or Muslims. Terrorism is suppose to scare the shit out of people and it’s always been an effective tool in doing so. Furthermore, if we choose to live in a free and open society, we will never be 100% safe from terrorism. Over a billion people enter and leave the US every year. We need to have good policing, good intelligence and effective prevention to keep ourselves safe but, if you want to to live in a hermetically sealed police state that is completely safe from outsiders, I suggest checking out North Korea.

Millions of people have come to America from every corner of the globe, fleeing something bad and in search of a better life. That is one of the defining characteristics of the American Nation. Trying to shut the door on those who come after us out of fear, ignorance and spite is un-American. One of our defining stories in our narrative is the story of Puritans who fled to America, who would have perished were it not for the charity and kindness of the native population. We’ve picked an auspicious time of the year to tell others fleeing violence and persecution to, “GTFO”.

If you want to help veterans, please do something proactive. We’d all appreciate it. But please, don’t use veteran’s issues to punch down onto people that are poor, tired, desperate and scared. Demonizing the vulnerable doesn’t help anyone and makes us look like assholes. Let’s not let fear drive our decision making process. We can do better than that for both our vets, our citizens and some of our fellow human beings around the world who are wanting and seeking refuge.

Thanks and please share.


About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.