It’s a terrible sight to be sure – the image of a drowned toddler washed up face-down on a beach, something none of us ever wanted to see but which still, compellingly, must be seen, demands to be seen, and cannot be unseen.
Just last week, I found myself irate upon reading about the plight of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, who was photographed selling pens on the street while his daughter slept on his shoulder. The photo was shared on Twitter by an Icelandic tourist, and within days, over $100 000 had been crowdsourced for the man, a single father of two who hoped to someday make it to Europe.
I was irate because, while surely this man and his children were deserving of compassion, the difference between his case and that of the other four million plus Syrian refugees is pretty much non-existent, whereas the difference in international reaction couldn’t be more stark. Whereas for years the vast majority of refugees have been demonized, their motives intensely scrutinized, their access to healthcare cut off, and their ability to find safe haven in the West heavily restricted, this one photogenic man was, for whatever reason, able to inspire sympathy in the hearts of the Twitterverse. Though I don’t for a second begrudge him and his family the help that they’ve received, I wondered to myself when we would be able to look at all refugees with this kind of compassion and generosity. If he deserved it – and surely he did! – then why didn’t all the others deserve it as well?
And then the tragedy of the Kurdi family blazed its ways into our news feeds and our headlines and, most irrevocably, our brains, our memories. Lord knows why this particular drowning was the one that went mainstream – because there have been a lot of drownings, that’s for sure, over 1800 in the first half of 2015 alone. But for whatever fickle reason of the news cycle, we’re talking about the refugee crisis now, and so now is the time to push the issue. So I’m going to devote all my posts for the next five days to the international refugee crisis.
Today being Fallacy Friday, I’d like to focus in particular on our Prime Minister’s reaction to the outrage over the drowning of Alan Kurdi, his brother Ghalib, and his mother Rehan.
There’s been a lot of politicking around this issue since the story broke a few days ago, and I’d like to deal with that all in detail in Sunday’s round-up of this week’s election news. For now, though, I want to take a close look at one particular thing that Stephen Harper has been saying repeatedly ever since his sycophantic yes-men went underground to ride out the media frenzy: that a key way Canada can help refugees is by continuing its war against the Islamic State.
For a typical example of that, here’s a four-and-a-half minute video from Harper’s daily news conference earlier today. The first two minutes consist of him distorting his government’s record on refugees, but the latter half of the clip is all about ISIS: Continue Reading