The LeSabre

The United States of America must receive “the huddled masses” of the Mediterranean shores

Syrian+refugees+on+one+of+many+boats+trying+to+enter+Europe.

Photo via YouTube under the Creative Commons License

Syrian refugees on one of many boats trying to enter Europe.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

 

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Syrian couple protecting their child from Hungarian police trying to drag the family back into the internment camp for Syrian refugees
Photo via Flickr under the Creative Commons License
Syrian couple protecting their child from Hungarian police trying to drag the family back into the internment camp for Syrian refugees

4,812,204 people have fled the wretched, three-way wrestling match that is the Syrian Civil War and became registered refugees. Another 897,645 have successfully applied for asylum within Europe between 2011 and December 2015. This adds up to a total of 5,709,849 people who have stated, by physical movement, that Syria – the ancient land with a history spanning through Greek, Roman, and Biblical times – is now less a Biblical homeland and more a growing sea of blood filled with islands of complete carnage.

The conflict ravaging the Syrian Arab Republic pits Bashar al-Assad’s loyalist fighters against the Free Syrian Army and allied fighters, and the wretched excuses for human beings that make up the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This war has grown from a peaceful, democratic movement into a worldwide state of emergency that threatens to tear apart the Middle East as we know it and has created a refugee crisis unparalleled by any other since World War II. In the face of this global crisis, which has not only impacted the Middle East but also Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America, the United States – the leader of the free world and the land behind the golden door – has failed to do so much as poke the crisis with a 50-foot long pole.

Syrian refugees resting in a Budapest railway station.
Photo via Wikipedia under the Creative Commons License
Syrian refugees resting in a Budapest railway station.

The United States government decided that it would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees between September 2015 and September 2016, and that it would gradually increase its overall refugee cap from 75,000 to 100,000 by 2017. Although calling these steps in the right direction is over-glorifying it, they are nonetheless steps in the right direction. However, there are countries that have accepted around 1 million refugees on their own, whether it was by choice – like Germany – or by pure circumstance – like the small Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon, which has its own sectarian problems. The United States – the third-largest nation on the face of this earth in both population and land area, and the wealthiest nation to have ever existed – is more than capable of accepting more than 2% of the Syrian refugee population at maximum when Turkey is currently holding nearly 50% of all Syrian refugees.

The famous image of three-year old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach, provoking an international outcry about the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict
Photo via Flickr under the Creative Commons License
The famous image of three-year old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach, provoking an international outcry about the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict

There are many people within this country who say that this is true, and that the United States is capable of receiving more than 10,000 refugees. However, there is also a large contingent of Americans who believe that accepting more of these mostly-Muslim refugees would be an irreversible and permanent security threat to our homeland. Although it is true that some of them may be terror threats – as shown by attacks that have occurred in Paris and San Bernardino – the truth of the matter is that over 99% of these refugees could not bring themselves to commit terrorist acts, especially after witnessing and experiencing first-hand the results of constant terrorist activity at the hands of ISIS. Also, with a screening process that has more than seven steps, lasts nearly two years, and involves agencies like the UN High Commission on Refugees (who only accepts 1% of all refugee applications), the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State; it is highly unlikely that the few refugees who are allowed to enter the United States are terrorist sympathizers. It is easier for the average American student to get accepted at an Ivy League institution than it is for a refugee to have their application accepted by the UNHCR, the first agency involved in a long series of processes that, for the worthy few, ends in resettlement in the United States.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

— The Constitution of the United States

With these extensive security screenings being placed on refugees – making it harder for a person to enter the United States as a refugee than through any other process – this may leave some to wonder why else people are unwilling to accept Syrian refugees. Some believe that Islam is an inherent enemy of the United States, even though the name “Islam” means “peace,” and “Muslim” means “one who submits.” If this were the case, then why would Muslim refugees even come to the United States in the first place? Or why would the United Nations – a global organization for world peace – allow these supposedly “hostile” refugees to settle in America, sewing the seeds of hypothetical conflict? Here is the question we should really be asking: Why should our nation deny Muslim refugees entry into the United States when our beloved and sacred Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?”

Syrian Refugees protest their detainment in a Budapest railway station.
Photo via Wikipedia under the Creative Commons License
Syrian Refugees protest their detainment in a Budapest railway station.

As the most powerful nation to have ever existed in the history of our Earth, and the leading nation of the free world, it is time for us to step up to the plate that is global leadership. As world leaders, it is up to us to take the risks needed in order to save those who are most in need, just as student leaders take risks and work hard to help those in need in our community. As world leaders, it is up to us to take the first step in finding homes for the “wretched refuse” of the teeming Mediterranean shores and in ending the conflict that is ravaging the Middle East and threatening to harm the world. As world leaders, it is time for us to live up to the lines in Emma Lazarus’s poem, and take Syria’s “tired…poor…huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and lift our lamp beside our “golden door.”

About the Writer
Photo of Gopi Ramanathan
Gopi Ramanathan, Journalist

Gopi Ramanathan is currently a senior at Sartell High School.  Although you probably know more than you've ever needed to know about him, here are a few...

A breakdown of what it means to be transgender

photo+via+wikipedia+under+the+Creative+Commons+License

photo via wikipedia under the Creative Commons License

The dictionary definition of transgender reads “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.” It, of course, is a lot more complicated than this one sentence translation. Understanding what it means to be transgender involves more than typing “define transgender” on Google.

People are afraid of what they don’t know, and that creates ignorance.”

— Taelyre Winegar

What does it mean to be transgender?

Transgender is an umbrella term for someone whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity is the psychological identification as a woman, man, or some other gender. Gender identity is manifested through gender expression. According to hrc.org, (HRC is the largest civil rights organization working towards equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans), “[Gender expression] may or may not conform to socially-defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.”

What does it mean to transition?

Some transgender people transition, which means they begin living as the gender that they identify with instead of the sex assigned to them at birth. This can, but doesn’t always, include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures.

photo via flickr under the Creative Commons License
Transgender symbol. Photo via flickr under the Creative Commons License

Is there a difference between being transgender and being gay?

Absolutely. Being transgender involves a person’s gender identity while being gay is about sexual orientation. Sexual orientation and gender identity are two separate things.

If someone cross-dresses does that make them transgender?

No. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression. According to hrc.org, “many people who cross-dress are comfortable with their assigned sex and generally do not wish to change it.”

Is it a mental disorder?

No. Transgender identity can’t be cured with treatment. Transgender people often feel disconnected between their assigned sex and their internal sense of who they are. This disconnection is called “gender dysphoria” due to the pain and distress it causes in the lives of transgender people.

Because being transgender is such an umbrella term the experience means something different for everyone going through it. Here are a few golden nuggets dropped by our very own Taelyre Winegar to give us a sneak peek into his colorful life.

photo via wikimedia under the Creative Commons License
A woman holds a sign at a rally. Photo via wikimedia under the Creative Commons License.

Q: What was it like coming out?

A: I wouldn’t necessarily call it coming out. I would call it becoming me. For me, it was more of an inner struggle than an outer struggle. 99% of the people around me I knew would still love me and care for me the same way they had before. It was more inwards because I was the one who struggled with it the most. I would say that I had a more preferred experience than others.

I wouldn’t necessarily call it coming out; I would call it becoming me.”

Q: What have you learned from this experience?

A: I have learned so many things, but I think the most important one is to be yourself no matter the cost because in the end you will be happy being you with few friends than not being yourself with many friends.

Q: What would you like to see change?

I would like to see [more] people [become] educated in the LGBTQAAP community and what it really all is. All of the new surfacing terms and the always-evolving gender spectrum can be confusing.  If we had a proper education on not only this topic but the more “taboo” topics, this world would be more culturally accepting. I am not saying that you have to believe in it or force it upon anyone, all I am saying is that with proper education we can be a more respectful people.

Q: If you could say one thing to Sartell High School students, what would it be?

A: RESPECT. Honestly, so many people lack this. And I’m not talking about the face to face but the behind your back kind of things. People just lack the respect in general.

As a transgender community, WE KNOW that there are many misconceptions and confusing things about this topic.  We are always willing to explain how and why things work.”

Q: Do you have any advice for people who are genuinely confused about someone being transgender (right and wrong things to ask, how to ask, what to ask)?

A: First of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. As a transgender community, WE KNOW that there are many misconceptions and confusing things about this topic.  We are always willing to explain how and why things work. But be respectful about it. NEVER EVER EVER ask their birth name or what they have in their pants. Those questions may strike a nerve and just pass over as rude, even if you are just curious.

Q: Why do you think people are so un-accepting/antagonizing?

A: Well, a couple of things actually: fear, ignorance, and just not knowing. They seem to kind of flow all together. People are afraid of what they don’t know and that creates ignorance. I understand that to some people what I may be doing is “against their religion” but in reality it’s not hurting you and ALL religions teach about loving other people, so that’s what you should be doing anyways.  There really is no excuse to be un-accepting of a person. Ever.

photo via flickr under the Creative Commons License
TIME magazine featured Laverne Cox on their cover in May 2014. Photo via flickr under the Creative Commons License.

Q: If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

A: Just do it now.

Q: Who/what is your biggest inspiration for strength?

I don’t really have a lot of inspiration from a lot of people because I transitioned almost two years before this was brought to the social rights and social media forefront so my inspiration comes from within and from my music. Music always has inspired me to do bigger and greater things because music itself is bigger and greater than any of us could ever be, and it moves the soul in a way nothing else can. Props to Caitlin Jenner for transitioning, but she IS NOT MY IDOL. I transitioned way before her and others as well.

Be yourself no matter the cost. ”

 

 

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