COLUMN: Fear ourselves more than terrorism

Before we utter words like stay away, we must remember who we are and how we got here.

Look into their eyes.

See the despair.

Gaze at their faces.

Read the misery and fear.

Talk to them.

Hear their countless stories of the loss of family members, homes, and entire lifestyles.

When you’ve done that, then tell Syrian and Iraqi refugees, “Stay away, you’re not welcome in Canada.”

Tell them that they’re not fleeing terror, but attempting to import it here.

Oh, but that’s the great thing about directing national policy on refugees via social media. None of the above is required. All that’s needed is an appallingly misinformed, or selfish, tunnel-visioned view of the world, and the short time it takes to spew it onto Facebook or a website.

Some of the public dialogue in this country surrounding the Syrian refugee debate, particularly in the wake of the horror in Paris, turns my stomach almost as much as the terror attacks themselves.

I refer to the near-hysteria and fear-mongering about importing ISIS terrorism via the Liberals’ pre-election promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end.

Let’s consider some actual facts:

This is not a plan to take 25,000 people off the bloody battlefields of Syria, or pluck them out of Mediterranean waters, and fly them directly into Canada – although some people talk like that’s what is going to happen.

There are literally millions of people sitting in vast camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany and elsewhere, waiting – some for years – for somewhere, anywhere, to go. Many have registered with the UN, and all can be screened.

They are women, and children – and yes, men – who are desperate to start a new life, free of constant fear and destruction and slaughter.

If the pitiful refugees I met covering Canadian relief efforts in Jordan and Lebanon just two years ago were hard-core terrorists, just waiting for an opportunity to come to Canada to wreak havoc, they were the best actors on the planet … thousands of them.

Let me suggest something that I consider far more frightening than a bunch of people carrying their children on their shoulders, and their worldly possessions in plastic bags.

And that’s the virtual certainty that ISIS or terrorists of their ilk are already here. They came here long ago, and are waiting for the signal to launch their attacks in our cities. Or, they are homegrown Canadian citizens who signed on to the fundamentalist insanity of their own volition.

Just as worrisome, if not more, are the yet-to-be jihadis – the ones ISIS and al-Qaeda can reach via the Internet. The same social media and websites that give the “build-a-wall-and-lock-us-in” types the means to rant beyond their coffee cups also provide the conduit through which terrorism flows across borders and past all the security checks in the world.

If you must be afraid, fear that. Also be afraid that terrorism will achieve one of its objectives – to cultivate paranoia and hatred around the world, because that spawns more recruits.

Be most afraid, though, of a country that turns away from its history as a generous, compassionate nation, to one that is seized by fear itself, which tramples on a global vision, and turns inward to a self-serving, self-protectionist agenda.

That won’t happen, though. And we will not leave our own behind, as some suggest. Governments spend billions helping citizens who need assistance. Can more be done? Of course. Can we afford it? Of course. It is a matter of political will and planning.

Canada has done so for generations which, never forget, are composed of millions of immigrants, and refugees, of myriad nationalities and many beliefs.

Before we utter words like stay away, we must remember who we are and how we got here.

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