Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletMay 27, 2022

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World War III: A Blog Entry

Guest post by Sister Francine Dempsey; Times Union, October 26, 2020

Thanks to Sister Fran Dempsey for her entry entitled “World War III” in the October 26th Albany Times Union in the blog, “Waging Peace,” by the Women against War.

In a cartoon two characters stand beside a sculpture of a dark brown boat crowded with indistinct human figures. The first character says,

“Everyone just wants to get back to normal.”

The second points to the sculpture: “Not these people.”

“Who are they?”

“This sculpture represents the millions of refugees and immigrants displaced by war, climate change and indifference.”

“What normal do they hope for?”

“How about the right to life?”

Back to reality. Have you noticed that asylum for refugees and migrants and immigration policy have been infrequent topics in the 2020 presidential debates?  David Anderson argues in “European Union and US at War Against Refugees and Immigrants” that for America’s treatment of refugees, “The E.U. could have easily put economic sanctions against the U.S. for human rights violations.” And, he adds, “The U.S. could have done the same against the E.U.”

Of course, Anderson in his title is not talking about a traditional war between two groups wearing uniforms, waving flags, holding guns. But he is right to say that Western powers, Europe and America, are allies conducting an all-out but almost unnoticed war against refugees across the Earth.

Let’s call this war against refugees World War III. In this war, as sometimes happens, the two sides are vastly unequal in their power. The weapons battling refugees are unbeatable while the refugees carry no weapons at all – except their courage.

Rarely does the side with the weaker weapons win a war, but in my lifetime that happened once. The Vietnamese people’s most powerful weapon was television, with its first-time ability to bring the reality of war, the Vietnam war into my living room in Albany, NY, into every American’s living room. Eventually, this weapon of media-power unintentionally strengthened American citizens’ protest power, which led the richest, most powerful nation in the world to surrender to its tiny, impoverished enemy, Vietnam.

Remember the image of the young Vietnamese girl running away from a napalm attack, naked, full of fear, crying out? That image, that weapon, did major damage to America ’s ever so righteous “war against communism.” That little girl – her photo repeated again and again on tv —  made viewers want to reach out and rescue her from  . . . ?  Oh, they realized, from their country’s brutal weaponry. “War No More,” America’s citizens said.

Today in World War III, as in the Vietnam war, two very unequal sides brandish very unequal weapons. The most powerful weapon carried by the West’s side is media blackout. Of course, refugees battle other weapons, like violence, climate change denial, and coronavirus exposure, but the power of media blackout is behind them all, and thus the refugees’ greatest danger today.

Because of this ongoing blackout, who knows that there are today more than 70 million refugees across the globe — 9.3 percent of the world’s population, half of whom are children? (UN Refugee Agency and Amnesty International figures) Who cares that by the year 2050 there will be 200 million climate refugees? A few scientists and academics and activists, bless them, are on the refugees’ side, but millions don’t know about refugees, or worse, don’t care.

Unseen and unheard, hundreds of thousands walk barren roads, squat in overcrowded, impermanent hovels, forever losing their battle for simple safety and security. They run from violence around the globe, from South Sudan or Syria or Venezuela or wherever; they run from climate disaster in the poorest countries around the globe.

Check out your favorite 30-minute televised “news of the world” on any station. Do you see the detention camps, shelters, caravans, riders atop freight trains, walkers in blazing heat and brutal cold, whole families on broken vessels crossing dangerous waters, individuals of all ages, all ethnicities, all religions, representatives of every violence-ridden, every impoverished land across the globe?

Oh, once in a great while a memorable heart-wrenching refugee picture shows up on television.  A 3-year old refugee drowned with her father in the Rio Grande a few years back. But who beyond the victims’ family remembers now those two dead refugees? Images of refugees suffering and dying are rare in a world that wages a media blackout against them.

A few brave journalists visit refugees and paint word-pictures of them. Thus, when Madeleine Joung checked out an ICE “refuge”   she found refugee children sleeping on concrete floors, no access to soap, 900 inmates cramped in a space for 125, unwashed baby bottles, insufficient diapers, lights on 24 hours a day, extremely cold night temperatures, sick and well together, etc. . How many comfortable Americans spend part of their day visualizing such conditions?

Likewise,  Anderson shares Marie Dutrepont reports that the Moira (Lesvos) in Greece is a refugee camp “designed for 2500 people but that now hosts 25,000.”  A place so crowded creates fear of other refugees, another weapon of the war against refugees, forged by the ugly conditions in which they must live. Dutrepont specifically points to the “fears and risks of women going to the bathroom at night,” a word picture that one wants to forget. Please, no more, the readers say.

What could change media blackout of the lives of our brothers and sisters who are refugees?

Imagine day after day on the tv news images of one group of refugees after another fleeing homeland, community, home, family, friends, jobs. Imagine a daily portrayal of the dangers young and old refugees face on the road and on the seas as they seek refuge, safety, somewhere, anywhere. Imagine daily pictures of the inhuman ways refugees are mistreated in the camps and detention centers where they wait year after year for a welcome from someone, somewhere; wait to hear the words, “Welcome. Make your Home with Us.”

America’s 2020 pledge to the 70 million refugees across the Earth is that in 2021, 15,000 applicants will be allowed in (but only if the President signs the order). For this ongoing World War III act of cruelty Americans should be taking to the streets once again, just as they did when television displayed the cruelty of napalm in Vietnam.

But so far the cruel weapon of media blackout remains in America’s armor in the war against refugees, denying these brothers and sisters of ours, as the cartoon says “their right to life.”