Monday, November 19, 2007


Many people are aware of the refugee crisis stemming from the war in Iraq- 2.5 million refugees have inundated Jordan and Syria and an additional 2 million people are internally displaced within Iraq. In response to these crises, we are often moved to donate to organizations that try to mitigate these disasters, but seldom do we have an opportunity to see refugees as a reflection of ourselves. What are missing are the personal stories for us to connect more deeply with this issue.

Americans have grown increasingly troubled by the news of the unending war on terror and are tired of the litany of fear that envelopes our leaders’ rhetoric regarding the world at large. There is a deep longing for compassionate action in this country, a deep yearning to reach out in a way to encourage understanding, respect, and love. I search for a way to bridge the divide cleaved between us as human beings. As a people we need to recognize our shared suffering and delve deeper into the repercussions of war.

After all, we are all refugees, moving across this landscape in the brief time allotted to us, exiled from our true self, searching for understanding, meaning, purpose and love. Our time here is uncertain, our circumstances tenuous. Here in the West we do everything we can to insulate ourselves from this truth. In doing so, we have become alienated from the natural world and from each other; we are convinced of our separateness. Because of this deep-seated dissonance we turn away from physical manifestations of exile, denying our responsibility in their creation, and refusing to consider the consequences of our perceived separation.

In a sense it is absurd to consider myself a refugee. Born into middle class “privilege”, American, white, well fed, educated, and housed. In saying this i am not comparing myself with people who are desperately trying to survive their dispossession. And yet, and yet, please hear me out, i am alien to this culture, i feel like an outsider, i feel other. i recognize something has been neglected and yet i don’t know how to return home. Lost. Disconnected. Caught in a culture of consumption that swallows everything whole this is an anguish that many Americans can relate to. This culture worships the individual, as if the entire world revolves around ourselves, and in doing so severs connections at home, in the workplace, and in the community. We have lost the connection to each other, and to the place we live. It is this very self-interest that is at the center of all divisiveness and the origin of conflict. Our minds have enormous capacity, our misguided self-interest greatly diminishes this capacity. We’ve lost touch, the very sensation that connects us to the world through our bodies. Losing touch we have lost perspective, and most of life is missed, though it is right in front of us. How do we regain this broader perspective, how do we reclaim that which we cannot even imagine we are missing?

Our belief systems have simply not left any room for not knowing, for mystery, or for people that do not think exactly like us. Yet, this is not the only possibility. i reflect back on my recent visits to the Middle East, speaking with a Lebanese father who with his bare hands dug his dead children from the rubble of a destroyed home; in Palestine tending a young boy, terror and pain etched on his face, who was shot by soldiers in the West Bank; and in Israel i listened as a father told the story of his soldier son killed in Lebanon in 2000. As i sat with these ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances, the power of their stories transformed me. i recognized the power of our willingness to hear each other and a bond was created. We welcomed each other into our stories, into the world we were creating in the moment.

As we delve into this matter of “refugee”, we will come to a deeper understanding of who we are, our hearts will welcome us home, and we will step forward to address these challenges with love. There is power in recognizing who we really are and the inherent possibilities of creating a world without suffering.