Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

making a difference with a map and phone call

At times I wish I was a cartographer, because a map is a surprising source for useful data. The evolution of maps into the digital world amplifies this reality. Data contained in a digital map can be downright overwhelming.

Take these maps published by Fast company this week.

Each pixel represents the movement of every single refugee from 2000 to 2015.

Much could be observed about this mesmerizing visualization of the largest humanitarian crisis of modern times.

Perhaps, most compelling for those of us who only read or hear about this issue when it's used as political ammunition are these realities.

Data-Point: Most refugees are not from Syria

We hear much about the Syrian refugee crisis. Rightly so. There is much about Syria that's unprecedented - mainly the disruption of an entire civilized society. It also makes for great sensationalist news and political fodder. However, the story of the refugee crisis has an epicenter in Central Africa, where millions continue to face the realities of displacement.

Data-Point: The vast majority of the world's refugees have not and will never come to America.

Nor will they go to Europe. In fact, Most refugees are actually traveling to neighboring countries — the majority of which would be considered developing countries. In 2015 the US took in 69,933 refugees. Uganda took in over 100,000. This was before the current administration's anti-refugee turgidity.

Here's one of the problems with America's current swing to the nationalistic right — everything is about us and nothing is our problem.

It's all about us.

Media and politicians in the US apoparently want us to think the global refugee crisis is essentially about America. "Those people are coming here to take over our way of life" — truly ludicrous logic, when we step away from our current state of nationalistic narcissism. It is not an American issue. It is a global issue. The three countries which directly border Syria are taking in the vast majority of Syrian refugees. Data doesnt lie. Look at the map. Somalian refugees are fleeing to Yemen. Yemeni refugees are fleeing to Somalia. This crisis is a few grains of sand on on the seashore of our borders when put into the perspective of the maelstrom facing rest of the world. While Western Europe is receiving a fair number of refugees from the global south — the vast majority of the 65 million displaced people in the world are trying to find safety either within the borders of their own country, or a neighboring country.

It's not our problem

At the same time — much of this crisis is because of our nation's ongoing policies (cross-party, cross-administrations). America has a recent history of warmongering, interventionist foreign policy. In fact, the New York Times reported some disturbing UN panel findings just yesterday. The recent US-led airstrikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and displaced yet another 160,000 people from their homes. Many of the central African conflicts are directly connected to foreign (i.e., Western) interventions. The global refugee crisis — the greatest humanitarian crisis of our day — should be an American issue. We have resources. We have the infrastructure. We have a proven system for vetting. We have a successful history of compassion. As a person of the Christian faith I would also mention that we have deeply-rooted Christian principles which would require us to consider how we should be a part of the solution.

Maybe it's not about America. But maybe it is our problem.

Look at the map, not the emotional rhetoric.

Emotions lie. Data doesn't.


There is something we can do today. Something we should do.

World Refugee Day is on June 20. Right now, as I publish this post, there is a national campaign urging people to call their national representatives and simply say, "As your constituent, I stand for refugees."

It's a small thing, which could make a huge difference.

We need to be a part of the solution.

If you would like to let your representatives in Washington know that you stand with refugees go to the website, or simply call this number:

1-844-4STAND5 (1-844-478-2635)

You'll be prompted to enter your zip code, and connected to your representatives in Washington. You can simply let them know that you stand with refugees and desire for the US to be a place that welcomes refugees. *

The goal is for 100,000 people to flood the phones this week. I encourage you be the solution. I did it today. It tales less than five minutes. Stand. It's the right thing to do.

Bernie Anderson