Hard to Make a Stand: On the Syrian Refugee Crisis and Animal Cruelty

I was all set this week to write a pretty, happy little post about how great September is in the Maritimes, but I feel that I’m just not up to it.  I’m not up to it because I’m sad this week.  And I’m sad this week because cats are getting stuffed into dog crates and left to die and because families are being forced to flee war-torn countries, stuffed into little rubber dingys and children are being left to die.  So I feel I just can’t write that happy, pretty blog post this week.  I hope you’ll forgive me, dear readers.  It happens to the best of us.

Even die-hard optimists have off days.

I’m sure I’ll be back on point next week but for now, let’s talk about some serious stuff that’s happening around us, shall we?

By now, everyone should know about the little Syrian boy who died fleeing his country with his family.  If not, where have you been all week?  I’ll give you a moment to find the story.  Just go to any major news outlet.

Are we all up-to-date?  Good.  So, here’s why we should all care about what happened to that family and so many more just like them: because it could happen to any one of us.  I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it could.  And if it did, I would want someone across the world to care enough to want to help me.

Sometimes we forget just how good we’ve got it here in the Maritimes.  We sit in our comfortable homes and spend time with our families on this lovely long weekend and we feel like these kind of troubles are a million miles away from us.  The vast majority of us have no idea what it’s like to have to flee your country in the middle of the night with your family, with just the clothes on your back.  The Kurdi family was crammed in a little rubber dingy, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Greece, to safety.  As we know, not all of them made it.  Every time I see that photo of the little boy’s father crying, I can see how he will carry his grief for the rest of his life.  It’s absolutely devastating.

Now there is a sea of refugees making their way to Austria and Germany, where these countries have generously set up refugee stations.  Icelanders have been offering up spaces in their own homes.  I think of this vast, wealthy country we have and I can’t help but think: we can do more.  We should do more.  What if we added our voices to the multitudes urging our government to take action?  What if we inundated the policy-makers of this country and let them know: this is not okay with us.

This week, Brian Gallant announced that the province of New Brunswick would be sending $50,000 to help Syrian refugees and that he would be open to welcoming refugees to N.B.  Smart move, considering we are a shrinking province and could use a boost to our population.  I applaud him for taking action.  But these people need help now.  And I know so many Maritimers are seeing these news stories and want to help, but don’t know how.  There are things that we can do.  Here’s a link to a CBC article telling Canadians how they can help.

The other story that gave me a hard time this week was the story of 15 cats found crammed in a dog crate and half buried, left to die in a field on the west side of Saint John.  Six of the animals were found dead at the scene, another seven were euthanized upon arrival at the Kannon Animal Hospital. In the end, only one cat survived.  All of the cats were reported to be wearing collars, so they were obviously pets.  The Kannon Animal Hospital released a video this week of the lone survivor, appropriately named Fanceen, meaning “to be free”.

There is an ancient quote by Terence which states: “I am a human being.  Nothing human can be alien to me”.  I really try to understand this and look at life with this quote in mind.  But I find it extremely difficult when I hear stories like the one about those 15 cats.  The person(s) who committed that crime must have known how those animals would suffer, left to starve to death in a box there was no escape from.  Some people out there might even say, “hey, it was just some cats”.  But here’s the thing: if this is how we’re going to value life, it’s a slippery slope from it’s just a cat to it’s just those people over there, to it’s just one little boy.

Life is life is life, no matter where it comes from or what form it takes.

We have to respect it, in all it’s forms, or we have nothing.

I have so much respect for those people around the world, and close to home, who are fighting for the rights of humans and animals alike.  The work you do is good.  The work you do is important.  Thank you.

I’m reminded of a song I love by Sheryl Crow, Hard to Make a Stand.  Because it is hard to make a stand.  But it’s so very important.

“Hey there, Miscreation.  Bring a flower, time is wasting.”

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