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Dwight Eisenhower said that "We believe individual liberty, rooted in human dignity, is man's greatest treasure." That's how we ought to see people seeking refuge.
Anyone who has attended a big concert or sporting event knows that it's possible to look at a sea of faces and be completely unable to see past the crowd and focus on an individual. The crowd itself is a sort of organism -- witness what happens when a stadium full of people sings along with an artist's signature hit, or breaks into The Wave during a lull in the action. Yet even though it's hard to see, the crowd is still made up of individuals.
■ Regrettably, the same thing can happen when we look at other groups of people -- including those who are in need. It is with appalling ease that people can transition from being perfectly good and decent in their personal lives to having a cold and inhumane attitude about "others".
■ America is in the midst of one of the largest-scale evacuations in history. The White House says that more than 110,000 people have been extracted from Afghanistan since the end of July. Many of the evacuees are Americans, but many are Afghans, including thousands who worked with and on behalf of American armed forces in the country.
■ But for some people, there is too much mercy on display. One commentator, for instance, declares that "able-bodied Afghani men of fighting age are not refugees. They should be left at home to fight for their country and not rewarded with cowardice."
■ It is categorically cruel and hypocritical to call refugees "cowards". By the established definition of international law, a refugee is "someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion." Note that the definition includes nothing exclusive to a gender or an age.
■ There is no honor in dismissing people in this way. Abandoning "able-bodied men of fighting age" (and undoubtedly condemning some of them to death) is utterly incompatible with an individual-first view of humanity. If you say that "Children need their fathers", then so do refugee children. If you say that "All lives matter", then so do the lives of "men of fighting age". If you say that you are "Pro-life from conception to grave", then it is indecent to send some people into certain death because of how and when they were born.
■ It is telling that the Americans who have seen some of the people of Afghanistan up-close -- the veterans who served with them -- are in many cases the most vocal proponents of rescue. They aren't seeing crowds; they're seeing people worth rescuing. And some influential people do see it that way: Sen. Ben Sasse put it well when he said, "When you've fought on behalf of Americans to protect our people, you're welcome in my neighborhood."
■ To be "pro-life" is to believe that the baby born aboard an evacuation flight is fully as human as anyone else -- as are the child's mother and father. Americans (as a group) ought to grieve that some of our compatriots cannot see the individuals that compose the crowds they fear.
■ The attempt to turn human beings seeking refuge into objects shouldn't be rewarded -- not with clicks, not with votes, not with donations, and not with any form of applause. Dwight Eisenhower said that "We believe individual liberty, rooted in human dignity, is man's greatest treasure. We believe that men, given free expression of their will, prefer freedom and self-dependence to dictatorship and collectivism." It's a strange and distressing turn indeed when Americans -- any Americans -- turn their backs on the primacy of the individual and resort to seeing only the collective.