In response to the letter in last week’s paper, “No more refugees should come to Vashon,” each of us should take a hard look at the title and substitute the word “refugees” with “blacks,” “gays,” “Jews” or “Japanese.” Are these sentiments we want to embrace? Rebutting this letter is an act of patriotism: The writer forgets our nation’s history.
Most of us are descendants of refugees and immigrants: those who were brutally forced to come here as slaves, those who fled oppression and were brought as indentured servants, those who escaped the Holocaust and those who arrive because of political and economic instability caused, in part, by American foreign policy and now have the privilege to advance the tech industry. Together, we aspire to a democracy that was founded on the principles of the Iroquois Confederacy and built by the imaginations and hopes of our ancestors.
The writer states that refugees settling on Vashon Island “foment hate.” Hate is not fomented; hate is exposed. You who react with hatred toward the “other” — whether religion, culture, language, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender — you are responsible for your hatred, not those who are the object of your hate.
These families who have embraced our community are igniting love. They give us opportunities to offer acts of kindness and comfort in a world of cruelty that breaks our hearts daily. They are a bridge to friendship, to more knowledge and greater compassion. One volunteer states, “As a friend and tutor to a young Syrian woman, I find myself in awe of her intelligence, resilience, courage and kindness. In Syria, she couldn’t attend school because it was bombed, but she loves math and she speaks three different languages. Knowing her makes me want to be a better person, a person who stands up for others and defends acts of human decency.”
— Mary Rose, friends and families of the Vashon Resettlement Committee