Poisoned M&M’s

The other day I was having a discussion about the Syrian refugees. My argument was that we should welcome them into our country. My opponent’s argument was that we should not — for various reasons, most of them you have probably heard or even hold. Eventually, he said: I have a bowl of M&M’s, 10 of them are poisonous. You go first.

My response was a sarcastic: Let’s dump them all. 

Him: I didn’t say get rid of them. I said you go first.

Now, let’s discuss how ridiculous his argument is. Why is it inappropriate to use the analogy of poisoned food in comparison to the Syrian refugees, migrants, and even ISIS? Well, to begin with, it is ridiculous to compare a person to poisoned food. Why? Because what do you do with poisoned food? Do you eat it? Do you let someone else eat it? NO! Of course not, you throw it out in such a manner that no one will eat it because IT IS POISONED!

When comparing the Syrians to poisoned food, you are saying – whether you intend to or not – that they should be thrown away because a few of them are “poisoned.” BECAUSE YOU DO NOT RISK EATING POISONED FOOD.

Comparing them to a bowl of partially poisoned M&M’s is taking away their humanity. With such arguments, you get Trump saying that we should force them to registrar and wear identifying markers to distinguish them as others. Does that sound familiar?

It is wrong to treat people as others as less than human. Why? To put it simply, we as a species decided so during WWII and Hitler did the same – and worse – to the Jewish people of German.

Now, is poisoned food is a bad analogy and we want to stick with a food theme — what is a good analogy?

A quote that I have repeatedly seen on Facebook and accredited to Malala Yousafzai sums it up good: With guns you can get rid of terrorists. With education, you can get rid of terrorism.

Your ultimate goal will determine which stance you take. If you want to make yourself feel better today, you may take the gun approach — poisoned M&M’s. However, that is superficial. Increasing security to obscene levels and denying human rights to an entire nation and religion, will not make you safe. You may feel like you are doing something to increase your security, but ultimately, your efforts are probably in vain.

However, if your goal is to be safe, you will take the educational approach. It takes more time, and the affects usually do not present themselves until years down the line, but the efforts have much longer lasting effects.

What food analogy works best with the Syrian-ISIS crises? Dirty food – not poisoned. Imagine you were carrying a tray of cookies, and you stumbled a bit. A few cookies fell of your tray. Some on to the side walk, and a few into a pile of manure. What do you do with all the cookies?

With the poisoned M&M’s scenario,  we had to throw out all the M&M’s because we did not know which were poisoned and which were not. With the cookies, we do know which are safe to eat–and which are not. We know which cookies fell into the manure. Those we throw out. There is no saving them. But the ones that did not? Those can be brushed off. Those we can save. Then there are the ones still on the tray. Those are still perfectly good.

The flaw with this analogy is that we witnessed the cookies falling. We know precisely which ones to do what to with little effort. With the Syrians and potential ISIS members it is a little more difficult. We can’t make an instant judgment as to which basket they fall into. That is why the refugee placement program takes so long to complete — 18 to 24 months or longer! If we try to make a quick decision about individual people we start thinking like Trump — they are all potentially poisoned — and thus start acting like Hitler.

I do not make light of Nazi comparisons, and dislike it when others do. However, if I recall my history right. It all started with registering a group of people. Marking them as other. Will we treat the Syrians as horribly  as the Nazi’s treated the Jews? More than likely not; however, the US also rounded up people of Asian decent during that time because of the attack on Pear Harbor. All I can remember of that situation — because it was barely mentioned in my history classes — was that they were not exactly treated nicely.

What I do know is this: if we start treating the Syrians as less than humane by taking way their human rights, it will only get worse.

To paraphrase a Lorax I know: unless someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to change. It’s just not.



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