Twisted Road Publications came into existence with a singular goal: tell stories that illuminate our shared humanity, regardless of the labels that designate us as “other”, and attempt to debunk the myths that surround those labels: Poor people are lazy; disabled people have no value to society; LGBTQ individuals are a threat to families; people of color are drug dealers and gangsters; Latinos are all here illegally; Muslims are terrorists, etc., etc., etc.
More often than not, the labels that designate some of us as “Other” are bestowed upon us by politicians and political parties seeking power. There is an interesting story titled When America Despised the Irish on the History Channel website (https://www.history.com/news/when-america-despised-the-irish-the-19th-centurys-refugee-crisis), detailing the country’s response to the influx of refugees from the potato famine in Ireland. According to the article “The refugees seeking haven in America were poor and disease-ridden. They threatened to take jobs away from Americans and strain welfare budgets. They practiced an alien religion and pledged allegiance to a foreign leader. They were bringing with them crime. They were accused of being rapists. And, worst of all, these undesirables were Irish.”
The Irish had become the designated “other”.
Opposition to the Irish refugees coalesced around the anti-Catholic, anti-immigration American Party, also known as the Know-Nothing party, because they claimed to “know nothing” when questioned about their politics. I suppose at the time it didn’t go over well for people to publicly declare their xenophobia. Nevertheless, they ran candidates who shouted “Americans must rule America!”, and it worked. Know-Nothings elected eight governors, more than 100 congressmen and mayors of cities including Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago in the mid-1850s. Nothing like good old-fashioned fear-mongering to get people to the polls.
Now, migrants from all over the world – Latinos and Muslims, people fleeing famine and war – are being placed by those who wish to consolidate their power into the category of “others”, all of whom we are supposed to fear.
The most ridiculous application of this label (okay, they’re all ridiculous) is for refugees who are resettled here though UNHCR. Refugees are vetted more intensively than any other group seeking to enter the U.S. In fact, the hardest way to come to the country is as a refugee. Once those refugees most in need are registered by the U.N. refugee agency, the U.S. then hand-selects every person who is admitted. The U.S. resettlement program gives priority to refugees, usually vulnerable families, who have been targeted by violence. The U.S. does not recognize as refugees people who have committed violations of humanitarian and human rights law, including the crime of terrorism, as refugees. They are specifically excluded from the protection accorded to refugees.
The question is: how do stop the fear and increase understanding. For me, the answer is the same as it’s always been – through story. Stories of struggles and overcoming obstacles. Stories of hope. Stories of family. Watch this space.
Twisted Road Publications is partnering with a new non-profit organization, Refugee Stories, Inc. to collect, transcribe and publish some of their stories. Since Twisted Road is a small press with limited resources, we are asking for help.
If you can help, please click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/vaa5e-refugee-stories