Humanism and the Syrian Refugees

Nicholas Guzowski

Summary: US nationalism underlies a feeling of superiority toward other nations and peoples. This can been seen in the outright rejection of the Syrian refugees, despite our common humanity — Editors

During my last trip to my hometown in Orange County, California, I was asked a simple question by my girlfriend about what we should do with the Syrian refugees. This prompted me to ask a close relative, who was the closest one next to me at the time. Almost immediately he said that we should not let them in and brought up the question of illegal immigrants that are here that we are trying to deport. To me, this brought up the obvious question of not being able to handle the current situation. So I kept poking and prodding him to see what else he felt about the situation as a whole and it came down to a plain and simple, “Do not let anyone in.” Since my position is that we should let them in, it was interesting to see first-hand how other people felt, and I went around to my immediate family and friends to see what they thought about it. A couple of my close friends happened to be in the military so I feel that their views are biased a little bit. Surprisingly, the majority of those I asked said that we should not let the Syrian refugees in no matter what.

To me, this is baffling. We have become such individualists in the United States that we do not question or criticize our underlying beliefs and have an honest open conversation about this issue. It is now widely known that the United States in a sense created Al Qaeda in the 1980’s war with Afghanistan. Islamophobia rose to new heights in 2001, after the September 11th attacks on New York. This led to the government’s propaganda that Middle Easterners as well as those who follow Islam are somehow inherently evil and more than likely a terrorist. But if we would follow out this logic, it would make the United States the good guy wouldn’t it? This is the main problem that is compromising today’s society, the nationalistic belief that the United States is the greatest country in the world, hands down, and that even though there are some problems, we are better off than the other countries in the world. But to what extent is that true?

It is true that the United States is the richest country in the world, but we are also the top-spending nation on the military, which has led to us being the main Imperialist power in the world as well; the United States gives off a veil of equality, but under capitalism we cannot eliminate racism or sexism. It is simple to see that our imperialism came about through the unique history that the United States has gone through, from slavery to factories, and monopolies to modern day capitalism. The most extreme case of accumulating capital, slavery, is the prime example of how capitalism has worked at controlling the individual.  But as Dunayevskaya writes in her book Marxism and Freedom, the true development of the individual as a social individual is the soul of Marxism, in the sense that Marx expressed the goal of our movement in the Communist Manifesto as a society where “the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all” (p. 65). Slavery was the most extreme case, where the workers, the slaves, were not allowed to band together against, but were violently separated so that there would not be any revolutions, although some did occur. Capitalists learned early on that the formation of a union would ultimately break up some of the power that they have maintained and so we are plunged into the industrial revolution and the factory. Not only were Blacks heavily segregated and discriminated against, but they also faced lower wages and more menial jobs.

When it came to white and Black workers, the white workers began to discriminate as a way of reducing the amount of competition with each other. If Blacks were not to be hired, there would be an entire population that they would no longer have to worry about in taking their jobs. Today, this seems to be the most pressing issue concerning immigrants, taking their jobs. Ironically, capitalism was idealized as competition based on getting the best result, yet we can see how capitalism in particular helped to shape a majority of the racial problems that we have today. It is for this reason that I believe that to truly become a society that has overcome racism and allow for the “free development of all” we must break down the capitalistic structure that has only one goal: accumulation.

The first step towards bettering the United States would be to end this war against the Middle Eastern or Muslim community and to recognize them as human beings. This would of course have to come about through a takeover of some of the bourgeois media, which has for decades portrayed them as terrorists or capable of becoming terrorists. I came across an excellent article by Gilbert Achcar, where he discusses the French state of exception where he says, “As long as there is war, the terrorist hydra tends to rise from the ashes since it feeds on war itself”. If we reject these Syrian refugees, we are only perpetuating the belief that the United States is imperialistic and selfishly individualistic. If we want to truly end this terrorism, we must show compassion and trust to these new refugees; if we deny them, we will only be creating the very thing that we are seeking to destroy.

It is amazing to conceive of a new world, one in which everyone works together instead of fighting each other, regardless of our differences, which will always exist. We are all individuals, we will all choose what we want to believe and reject, but the one thing that will never change is that we are all in this together as a human race. This is what I believe Marx would have wanted us to see and it is just a shame that we are too bound up by our egos and who will look up to us as the greatest nation, instead of being that which we pretend to be. As Raya Dunayevskaya brilliantly put it, “it is high time to stop playing psychological games with racism.” (American Civilization on Trial, p.57)

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