La Barque Est Pleine?

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Horrific scenes of displacement and despair from Northern Africa and the Middle East have been in our media over the past several months. We have seen the desperation of people fleeing drought, unemployment, oppression, violence, and war around the world. Some risk everything, including their lives to find refuge from these modern plagues. The heart rending picture of a small boy washed up on a Turkish shore shocks the conscience yet it does not elicit any haste to find a remedy to the problem. Germany has offered to take in eight hundred thousand of these refugees and they are held hostage by Hungary’s athiest Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, in a one-man attempt to protect all of “Christian Europe” from the “Muslim threat”. I don’t know what it means to be Christian if it isn’t to love and care for our fellow man regardless of his color, creed, or national origin.

There has been a rise in the number of leaders who have used fear of the other as a tool of manipulation to consolidate power and control since 9/11. The U.S. has granted the safety of our shores to only 1,554 Syrian refugees for fear that terrorists may be among those requesting a way out of that war torn country. Britain’s Cameron has announced plans to accept “thousands” which is a drop in the bucket when there are a staggering 6.5 million displaced Syrian people alone. Our two countries bear enormous responsibility for the rise of ISIS and we should whatever we can to assist the victims of the horror they inflict. I remember Colin Powell’s prescient words, “you break it, you own it”, well, this is what it means to own it.

Sometimes it may be worth taking a risk to accept a few potential terrorists in order that little boys like Aylan, 3, his brother, Galip, 5, and their mother, Rehan, and the millions of others like them do not perish seeking safety. Our boat is not full and we should do more to remedy a crisis not seen since the middle of the last century.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you . . .

Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.

Merton (1965).
The Way of Chuang Tzu.
New York: New Directions.

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