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On the Margins: Poetry and the Refugee (Part Two)

A Brief Taste of the Language of Exposure and Containment: Comments from NYT, Sept. 22, 2015, “How the US Can Welcome Refugees.”

"On the Margins: Poetry and the Refugee (Part 1)" can be found here.

—Doris Salcedo, from Shibboleth

Why despise “fear”? Zealous writing that glorifies “heroism” and “sacrifices” and “blood” recharges a violent and masculine symbolic language. A text filled with heroism is a suffocating lung. Heroism kills the space of longing that exists between reader and writer; it is like two people speaking to each other with their mouths glued together. A language that speaks of killing happily and cheerfully will one day justify killing. It is necessary to both humanize emotions and take them from the infinite and immutable to the historical, in order to limit the reproduction of dictatorships…We need writings filled with defeat and evanescence.

Dara Abdallah (b. May 1990, Qamishli, northeastern Syria), from “Praising ‘Fear’”

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“Just because your house is falling apart does not mean you can just pack up and move into your neighbor’s house and eat their food sit on their couch and claim all the benefits of their past hard work.”

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“Refugees in the US do very well. They create jobs, educate their children, pay taxes and are good citizens.”

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“I wonder if some of us are overlooking an important aspect of the problem. How many are genuine refugees escaping death or injury or persecution of various kinds and how many are simply using ‘refugee’ as a blanket cover in search of just better economic opportunities?”

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“Apparently…sympathy for migrants overrides all existing practical problems and moving hundreds of thousands from a failed Moslem [sic] environment to a successful European environment is just a matter of feeling good about oneself and ignoring the realities of making human society work.”

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“We need housing for the working poor not refugees from the Middle East.”

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“America’s social fabric has always been robust for some and fragile for others.”

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“In my opinion there is no question that the US needs to accept as many refugees as possible.”

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“It might be worthwhile to consider giving the refugees a community. Let them cluster in neighborhoods as many original settlers from Europe did. (Give them Detroit?)”

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“We are obligated by a POEM?

That poem is not part of the original Statue of Liberty. It was added many years later. It was written by a left-wing poet, Emma Lazarus.”

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“Refugees? Migrants?

A little less aggressiveness and sense of entitlement would go a long way.”

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“Let them in, the need is apparent, let them in.”

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“We cannot afford to destroy our country taking in a group of people who are anti-Jew, anti-Christian and anti-West.

We have enough home grown terrorists to entertain the possibility of further terrorism.”

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“Now we just have to rid our own country of the anti-Islam/anti-Arab nonsense that is so destructive to who we are as a society.”

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“I can envision every city, large and small, in the US with the means to accept one refugee family into its community. Providing first a job, second housing, third education to all members of the family, and a path to citizenship. Look what happened when we started accepting Vietnam refugees into our society. We are better for it. We are smarter, stronger, more human.”

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“Homeland Security reports for illegal crossing at the Mexican border in the month of August were just made available—over 10,000. Guess that answers the question of whether we need to take in a new set of ‘refugees.’”

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“Immigrants go to the back of the line.”

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“Being kind is one thing, but being self-destructive is another.”

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“Beggars cannot be choosers.”

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“This is a huge public health issue….Let’s remain level headed and realize we have many issues that need fixing within our homeland.”

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“…we just can’t afford the flood that is arriving.”

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“Love has always been and always will be the answer.”

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“America has a tremendous moral obligation to help deal with these problems. We made them.”

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“We also need to address the question of out of control and unsustainable population growth.”

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“Cubans do not have to prove political persecution to gain asylum; just reaching our shores and being Cuban is enough.”

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“But a country with so much empty land and so many resources can surely do more than it has promised.”

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“I welcome immigrants. But I do NOT want to live in Somalia-lite.”

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“As an American taxpayer, I want my taxes to go first to assist building America…”

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“This kind of situation could be repeated many times in the coming years and decades, so we had better get ready for it now rather than sitting around just talking about what needs to be done. Let’s get to work.”

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“…those hard-working illegal Mexicans are looking pretty good right about now.”

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“These refugees are not like the refugees of generations past. They are bringing with them a culture/religion steeped in violence and hatred.”

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“We should be taking care of our own first and then others.”

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“Let’s settle them in the Hamptons.”

Originally Published: September 24th, 2015

Poet and editor Robert Fernandez was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in Miami. He earned an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is the author of the collections We Are Pharaoh (2011), Pink Reef (2013), and Scarecrow (Wesleyan University Press, 2016). He is also the co-translator, with Blake Bronson-Bartlett,...