First, to my dear readers, a happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
While I look forward to spending time with some of my precious family, for which I am extremely grateful, my heart continues to ache for those who are separated from their families. I think of the Syrian refugees, of whom more than half are children. I continue to shed tears for them, for how they have been treated by the despots in their home countries, as well as for how these people have become scapegoats, targets of shameful racist demagoguery both among existing politicians and candidates seeking political office next year.
A family of Arctic wolves spends time together at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, Columbia, NJ. PHOTO: Copyright 2015, Daniel L. Berek
Wolves are often portrayed in popular literature and folklore as the evil. Of all the pictures I have taken of these magnificent animals, this one best shows how popular myth so often gets it wrong. My point: the same applies to the hateful things said about the Syrian refugees and Muslims in general. My experiences with both show the opposite.
So, on this Thanksgiving, before I join members of my own family, I took a few moments to pen a letter to President Barack Obama, to express my support for his wise and humane policies regarding the refugees and immigrants. In my letter, I express my feelings that his plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees “has great metaphorical and practical meaning, as that is the number of children saved during the Holocaust, thanks to the Kindertransport and the generosity of the British people.”
It should be a happy time. But it isn’t.
“This year, I wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring that the commitments made by the international community to the world’s children are extended to a group of children who are often forgotten or overlooked: those deprived of their liberty,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Even sadder is the statement by Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Twenty-six years ago today, the world made a solemn promise to the children of the world, to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.
“But for children caught up in the different conflicts now gripping the Middle East and North Africa, that pledge – formalized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child — is being broken, day in and day out.
“Across the region, levels of violence are reaching unprecedented levels, tearing apart the social fabric of whole societies and bringing basic services and vital civic infrastructure to the point of collapse….”
The world remains a deeply unfair place for children in many countries.
And lost among the deafening clamor in politicizing the plight of the Syrian refugees, we forget that the U.S. is the only nation that has not yet ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Each of us has a moral responsibility to take some action on behalf of the children of the world.
Minute by minute, we hear the abhorrent rantings of various public figures confronting hate with hate, fear with fear, despair with despair. Rather than quote all those individuals, as well as the fine people who have stood up to this bigotry, I will let some powerful photographs speak up for the child refugees of the Middle East, who make up more than half that desperate population. A very fine photographer uses his art to document where child refugees in the Middle East sleep. The article in Buzzfeed has the rest of the photos.
In 1981, Fred Rogers had a simple, yet profound message for Jeff Erlanger, a boy who was permanently disabled during a complex surgery. The sincere positivity of both Jeff and Mister Rogers shone through.
“Fast forward” some 20 years latter, and Fred has a surprise reunion with Jeff, now a young man. Said Jeff. “You know, when you tell people that ‘It’s you I like,’ you know that you really mean it. And tonight, I want to let you know that, on behalf of millions of children and grown-ups, it is you that I like.”
Just recently, the online magazine and blog, Petzoid, reminded us how Fred Rogers has touched the lives of so many children, who as adults never forget the kindness of this of a very special man.