Counting the dead. We’re extraordinarily good at counting the dead, we warlike nations. Every drone-strike has its body-count and we’re pretty good at counting losses on both sides, whichever those sides might be.
What we’re not so good at is keeping tabs on the displaced and those whose lives have been unalterably affected by chaos. Our boys come home, if they come home, to dysfunctional medical and psychiatric care—a lost generation, as the women and men of Vietnam were lost. In those far away war-zones the losses run deeper and the damage runs closer to the bone.
Iraq was a nation run by a ruthless dictator, no doubt. But the parks were open, the ice cream vendors sold their wares and family life had regularity, no matter the constrictions. Syrian children went to school and Afghan tribal communities went about their daily lives.
All gone now, the mirage of democracy traded off for car-bombs, suicide bombings and families shuttered away in what’s left of their homes—listening, fearing the skies, wondering how and when and who will next fall victim. The question is not whether they have survived, but if there’s anything left worthwhile to live for.
So Europe deals as best it can with the influx of those who have fled the chaos and argues over whether they are political or economic migrants. An empty argument in a world empty of solutions.
A week ago the Editorial Board of the New York Times made the audacious claim that “Europe Must Do Better on Refugees.” This from a leading newspaper in a country of 50 States, where the Governors of at least 31 of those states say they will not accept Syrian refugees and Republicans block President Obama from accepting even a token number. Yet, according to the Times, Europe must do better. Perhaps America might lead rather than criticize.
But if you think the West has a ‘problem’ with five million Syrian refugees, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Climate change is about to kick off world-wide migrations in the billions. Only about a third of our planet is land to begin with and that portion is bound to shrink. If the seas rise a mere half-meter, Bangladesh is over. Eighty million people will have to migrate to Pakistan or India. One need only contemplate the global shorelines to realize the nasty coincidence--that’s where populations are both concentrated and most vulnerable.
What happens when that occurs? What then are the options?
America is seeing the early warnings of this, if it will only look up from its televisions to notice. Drought and flood occurrences where they have never or rarely been, as well as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes wildly out-of-pattern. At least the United States has land in which to move around.
A great proportion of the world has no place to go.