I often find myself feeling weary and down-hearted when I make the mistake of finding out what is going on in the world outside my own little circle of life.
More and more the media seems obsessed with fear-mongering and xenophobia.
Fear the stranger.
Fear those who are different.
Those here by accident of birth are pure of heart and intention.
Those here by choice are clearly up to no good.
This morning one of my long-time friends from high school contributed his anti-immigration views on Facebook.
After much slow deliberation, and even slower typing, I want to include here my response to him:
“As a Canadian resident in Switzerland, Dickie, I can’t say I agree with all you’ve said.
With the notable exception of native peoples, all Canadians are immigrants or descended from immigrants.
The uniqueness of Canada as opposed to the States is that rather than being a melting pot where everyone blurs into becoming an American, Canada is more like a stained glass window where each culture is distinct but when gathered together make something beautiful to behold.
The problem I have with anti-immigration folks is that they argue from many false premises, usually based on limited information and a sense of paranoia drummed up by a fear-mongering media.
First, it is assumed that immigrants will be a drain upon our system.
The opposite is true.
Most countries make as a pre-condition to immigration that the immigrant is already able to provide for himself prior to citizenship being granted.
Even refugees, after a time of limited support, are required to show a willingness and ability to contribute to our economy in a similar fashion to those there by accident of birth.
Second, because usually what gets reported and shown on our TVs is bad news, we rarely meet the “good” immigrant, the “good” refugee.
There are more than 300 countries in the world, yet year after year Canada remains at the top of the most desireable countries in the world to live in.
Refugees and immigrants want to come to Canada.
They are there by choice, whether that choice was forced by circumstance or was pre-arranged thoughtfully.
Most new arrivals in a new land are grateful to be there, and it is the immigrant who does the jobs we cannot or will not do.
Third, if all we are exposed to is negative publicity about a group of people than we are only getting an incomplete picture of who they really are.
Humanity across the planet, when political and religious leaders are not drumming up hatred and division, all basically want the same things: to build a future for themselves and their children.
As Sting so aptly put it: “The Russians (substitute any group here) love their children too.”
Fourth, and I use myself as an example, your culture, such as it is, will always make the first generation immigrant never completely a part of their new home.
For some, racial differences will always stand out as they appear different from those around them.
And depending upon the educational level of the people they have chosen to settle amongst, these differences may not always be as accepted as they should be.
For others, because of their different cultural backgrounds, adjusting to a different mentality and perception will be very difficult to assimilate, but most do.
We only ever hear about those that don’t.
At first glance, it may appear that Switzerland and Canada are not that vastly different, but let me assure you after six years resident here, that they are truly worlds apart.
Some aspects of Swiss culture fit well with mine.
Others still cause me discomfort.
But as I wish to remain here for the time being I adapt enough to be able to live amongst the Swiss but still perceive life through Canadian eyes.
But it is this different perspective that the immigrant offers his adopted land that injects new blood and new ideas into the place and prevents it from becoming a xenophobic land suitable only for fearful right wingers.
These of the right would have us build walls around ourselves to protect us from the corruption of the outside world.
But walls work both ways.
Keep out the immigrants, but remain trapped with those whose conservatism is creating stagnation.
Most immigrants realise that how life was lived back in their birthlands will not work in their new lands.
Sharia law does not exist in Canada and never will, because the vast majority of Canadians will reject it, including most immigrants who left their lands because they already rejected Sharia law for their lives.
Fifth, there will always be wolves among the sheep, regardless of attempts to separate them from the flock.
Much ado is being made online about some ISIS adherants amongst Syrian refugees, but this does not mean that all Syrian refugees are clandestine members of ISIS.
Most of them are fleeing ISIS.
Just two days ago in Geneva, a Canadian bank robber, known as the Vaulter Bandit, was arrested.
The Swiss at my workplace have kidded me mercilessly about Canadians having a bank robber mentality.
Unlike American news, and with the exception of loving ice hockey almost as much as Canadians do, the Swiss know little about Canada.
For many I am the only Canadian they have actually met.
One Canadian on Swiss soil was a bank robber.
Does this mean all Canadians should be perceived as bank robbers?
If those nervous about immigrants and refugees would actually spend time to find out about them or actually spend time with them, they would realise just how foolish their fears actually are.
One of my very best friends at Starbucks in St. Gallen was himself a former Algerian refugee and he is a fine hard-working upstanding person of the finest caliber.
Canada is a proud and strong land and it is because of immigrants and those descended from them.”
As Winston Churchill once said:
“The only thing we really have to fear is fear itself.”