Imagine with me: You've been on the front lines of war. You've been trained to be a killer, protecting your life and the lives of your home country at all cost. Anyone who attempts harm is considered a threat to be taken out- gender and age can't play a role in consideration, when it comes to protecting your own. You perform missions that are unimaginable, and you've witnessed the deaths of some of your men. Then suddenly, your time is done and you're returned home. You're met with protestors that hold signs reading "baby killer" and chants that spew hatred that you struggle to ignore. These protestors have no idea what you've done to protect them, so you try to dismiss their ignorance. "Welcome home!", your family exclaims. You're home, but your mind is still at war. Nightmares ravish your sleep.
Imagine a different scenario: You are in a war torn land. Your days and nights are consumed with eluding the terrorists that heartlessly take the lives of those who don't conform to their hatred. You witness your six year old son be dragged away, as the terrorists build their next generation army. You're lucky to have silenced your crying daughter, as you hide away, praying they don't see the rest of your family. Not even a month later, you see your brainwashed son carrying a rifle and performing malicious acts with the terrorists. Then the unthinkable happens, your son points his rifle at a U.S. Marine, and you witness his life end. Your home is hell on earth, and the only hope is to escape. You are a refugee and your family has been welcomed into another country, and the culture is shockingly different. But the images don't die. You are haunted by the visions witnessed in the country of your origination.
Now, imagine this Marine and this mother crossing paths on the street. Imagine the memories that would race in, the wounds that would rip open.
The problem lies not with the wounded, but with us.
How can we expect our military men and women to transition back into a life of love and kindness, without properly debriefing them? How can they successfully transition, when there are ignorant protestors continuously reminding them of their mission?
How can we expect refugees to suddenly feel safe in a new country, without assuring them that our freedoms are now their freedoms and we protect them as our own? How can they successfully transition, when the reminders of their most tragic moments flash before their eyes with every man or woman who resembles those they were told to hate?
We are the problem. We demand that others understand our beliefs, without understanding theirs. And too often, our beliefs are stemmed from ignorance portrayed only by the media, rather than engaging with those around us.
We say bring our military home. We say let the refugees come to safety. But we are failing them both, once they are here. If it's been over three years and my adopted son is still struggling to heal from trauma and adapt to some of our cultural differences from Haiti, I cannot begin to image the struggle for those who hold stronger memories from their time in other places of trauma.
Our system is flawed. It won't be fixed overnight. But in the meantime, I urge you to step back and think about what role you're playing in this chaos. Are you thriving on ignorance and stirring hate? Or are you taking the time to understand others and encouraging love?
Hate holds us back. Love moves us forward.