Jessicah Lahitou wonders where all the male leaders are in the quest to aid the Syrian refugee crisis.
Quick Quiz: What three things do the following names have in common?
|Mariono Rajoy||Victor Orbán||Prokopis Pavlopoulous|
|Heinz Fischer||Andrzej Duda||Recep Tayyip Erdoğan|
|Lars Løkke Rasmussen||Michel Suleiman||David Cameron|
|François Hollande||Stefan Löfven||Sergio Mattarella|
Answer: 1) They are all men. 2) They are all leaders of European or Middle Eastern countries. 3) They have all catastrophically mishandled the current deluge of chaos in the Middle East.
When the harrowing photo of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, washed up lifeless on a Turkish beach, hit the Internet, outrage and horror erupted around the world. How could this be? How could this happen in the 21st century? International heartbreak demanded to know: what is going on?
The leaders above have known for a very long time what’s been going on. The largest refugee crisis since WWII didn’t happen spontaneously last week. Vast numbers of Syrians, Iraqis, and Iranians have been fleeing the chaos and violence of their home countries for at least four years, risking (and often losing) their lives on treacherous trips across land and sea.
You know what was happening four years ago? The iPhone 4s had just been released.
If leadership is a man’s game, we are looking at a very short roster of competent players. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is worthy of nothing more than a litany of words inappropriate for this publication, followed by the hangman’s noose. The hell he has wreaked upon his own people defies our vocabulary for description.
In surrounding countries, the current crop of male leaders is not rushing to welcome fleeing women and children. Refugee camps under Erdoğan’s Turkey are all but unlivable. The leaders of wealthy Gulf states – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar – have done little to help, other than send money to aid agencies. One imagines to further avoid formally accepting any refugees themselves.
So to Europe, millions of migrants and refugees flee. And what do they find there? Ambivalence at best, criminal neglect at worst: train stations doubling as holding pens. Border guards with high-tech equipment to keep them out.
But it’s easy to cast blame across the pond, tell Europe it should handle itself better. What about our own behavior? What have our leaders offered the Middle East for its peace? What have we offered those fleeing religious persecution?
To date, the United States has accepted 1500 refugees. It makes one wonder if the Statue of Liberty might recuse herself and relocate off the shores of Iceland, whose population petitioned the government in masse to take more of these Syrian “huddled masses.” Some offered to host them in their own homes.
We have our own man in the Oval Office, our own man Senate Leader, our own man Speaker of the House. They fight a lot with each other, which apparently leaves them very little time to fight for stability in Syria, an actual solution to the migrant crisis within our own borders, the projection of any semblance of know-how or competence to a worried population. If the recently signed Iran deal does actually preclude Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, then that will be an achievement. But skeptics abound as to the deal’s merits, and all branches of current Washington leadership continue to disappoint Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and everyone in between.
So what would a good man in a position of power look like?
He’d look a lot like Angela Merkel, the German iteration of today’s Iron Lady. Against political pressure, Merkel has spoken openly, without caveat or apology, about Germany’s current and future role in this crisis: they’ll be accepting and resettling a multitude of migrants and refugees, to the tune of 800,000.
And while this writer is always glad to see a strong female leader, the fact that Merkel has stood alone on this should give all of us pause.
I’m left with a haunted question:
Where are all the good men?
Photo: SyriaFreedom / flickr
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