I talk a lot about my children’s right to inclusion and acceptance. I talk often about autistic people’s rights to be safe, to be free to be themselves. I talk about the rights of neurodivergent people to support that helps them live the life they choose and live it well. Some people would say I mostly write about disability rights, but I believe these are issues of human rights. Today, I’d like to talk with you about another issue of human rights: the rights all people have to safety.
I can’t imagine there are many people unaware of the enormous number of refugees in the world at present. I don’t want to talk about details such as who started which war, where people “should” flee to, the “correct” way to seek asylum, whether stopping boats so people don’t drown at sea actually keeps them safe or alive in the long run, or which “line” refugees should wait at the end of. I don’t want to talk about the practicalities of increasing a countries refugee intake. I don’t want to wonder about what refugees have to offer if we bring them into our country. I’m really, really tired of those discussions.
I’m tired of them because they are full of the loud voices of people whose lives are not in danger, theorising about how people whose lives are in imminent danger should conduct themselves in order to get help. I’m tired of them because they are full of incorrect assumptions. I’m tired of them because they are used as a way to demonise people who truly just need our help to restart their lives somewhere safe.
Instead, let’s talk about compassion.
compassion |kəmˈpaSHən| noun sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion.
SYNONYMS pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity. ANTONYMS indifference, cruelty.
Compassion is what moves us to help someone if they fall over, to rescue an injured animal, to direct anger toward an abuser, to stand up for someone who is being bullied, to donate to a fund that will help victims of natural disasters, or to protest unjust political policy.
So, why is there an overwhelming lack of compassion for refugees who attempt to arrive in Australia by boat? These are people who have been injured, abused, bullied, suffered at the hands of governments and militia who create disasters of a magnitude we have been fortunate to never witness first hand, and they are subject to some of the most cruel political policy I’m aware of. They are the victims of unspeakable cruelty. Why do so many of us just not care about them?
Why do so many of us think it is acceptable that children are left to live their formative years in what are essentially concentration camps?
Why do we say “they deserve it for trying to jump the queue”, when they have no choice but to do something, anything -NOW- or they will DIE?
Why do we not hold our politicians to account for the misery their decisions subject people to? Why do we not call them out for their “they should have thought of that before they were born in a country that would one day be ravaged by war and corruption” attitudes?
Why are so many of us so readily prepared to condemn parents for fleeing for their lives, taking their children out of war zones, and attempting to get to a place they know is safer? Would we not do the same? And if we think we wouldn’t…. how do we know that for sure?
From our place of safety and privilege, where the sound of a bomb falling is unknown to us except from the approximation of it by foley artists, where food grows on supermarket shelves and never runs out, where the help of a doctor in the safety of a hospital is available every minute, where attendance at school is a given, where beds and pillows and blankets are snuggled in to every night and homes offer warmth and comfort….. how would we know what lengths we would go to in order to offer our children something better than constant fear, hunger, illness, injury, and no where to even hide, let alone rest.
How would we know? And why do we stoically refuse to wonder?
Why do we prefer accusation and blaming over compassion and helping?
I think it is the same reason that it is necessary for me to write about the human rights of disabled people. People just don’t seem to be able to think their way through to the realisation that everyone has the same basic rights.
It doesn’t matter if people are like you or not, we all have the same rights. Safety is one of them. You have a right to not be attacked by someone as you walk down the street. Your child has the right not to be bullied at school. My child has the right to attend a school that meets their needs. Physically disabled people have a right to access the same public spaces able bodied people do.
If your street was attacked by terrorists, you would have a right to be protected and to be offered somewhere safe to go. If your town was bombed so it became uninhabitable, you would have a right to go somewhere else to find safety, new accommodations and opportunities for employment, health care, and education for yourself and your family. You would want to be able to do that without having to follow complicated and unreasonable rules set up by people who’ve never been in your situation. You would certainly want to be able to do that without being required to sit languishing in a prison for an indefinite period of time, while the rest of the world discussed your plight and adjusted their laws to ensure that they would not be the ones required to help you.
So, why do we do this to others?
Why do we sit back and allow our politicians to get away with doing it to others on our behalf?
Why do we seem to think that our children have rights that other children do not?
Why are we prepared to fight for the rights of our children, but not the children of others? Do we not realise that if society is to change it takes us standing up to defend all those who need help to make that change happen?
Everyone has the right to safety. You, me, our children.
Everyone has the right to safety. Refugees and their children.
Please, can we stop talking about refugees like a problem to be solved and start looking at them as people in need of our compassion.
Everyone has the right to safety.
This video came from Mums 4 Refugees Facebook page