Listen to the Banshee Cries or the Better Angels of our Nature


Former Canadian diplomat Paul Heinbecker analyzed the current refugee system, which I have called monstrous this way: “The people who are refugees whether they are clinging to the hillsides in Bangladesh in the monsoon season, or dodging barrel bombs or poisonous gas in Syria, pouring into Uganda from Sudan by the hundreds of thousands, or escaping from the predations of criminal gangs in Central America, they all have precious little prospect of freedom from want.”[1]

They also have precious little chance of obtaining freedom from injustice. And we must remember that often these people fleeing violence and oppression are the most vulnerable people in the world—women and young children. Many of them take the most desperate measures to escape dodging predatory criminals along the way only to end up in the most inhospitable countries where they are shouted at by locals to go back home, treated like criminals, locked up in cages, forced to sleep in the cold on the hard stony ground, and in the most egregious cases even separated from their children under the most trauma inducing circumstances while billionaire politicians lie to them that they are illegal when they are not, are and not wanted when often they are. Some countries of the west are now reengaging in the worst practices from their past that are the most despicable in their histories.

Paul Heinbecker summed up “the times” this way:


We live in a time of disruption: With apologies to Charles Dickens, our are the best of times and the worst of times; ours is the age of information and of ignorance, and era of widening community and deepening xenophobia, a period of technological progress and political regression. People in general and Canadians in general have never been more prosperous, have never been more educated; (whether they have been better educated is perhaps another question) have never been healthier or longer-lived; have never been better connected with the rest of the world, and by far for the most part, have never been safer. People are in Canada, and indeed in the US have a much better chance of dying at the hands of their spouse than dying at the hands of a terrorist.[2]


So we can all make choices. We can join the side of information or ignorance. We can join the side of widening community or deepening xenophobia. Its up to us. We can follow the banshee cries of political leaders like Ted Falk or Donald Trump who warn about the gathering brown hordes on our borders or listen to the better angels of our nature. The choice is ours. Make yours.

[1]Paul Heinbecker, “Five Freedoms: Freedom from Lies”, CBC radio, Ideas, April 11, 2019

[2]Paul Heinbecker, “Five Freedoms: Freedom from Lies”, CBC radio, Ideas, April 11, 2019

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