On Wednesday CNN did an interview with a former democrat congressman who was petitioning Obama to Do Something(TM) about the refugee crisis. I’ve written in the comments at the HQ about the perils of “Do Something”(TM) before but thought now might be a good time to rehash those arguments in a more visible (and more permanent fashion.)
The CNN anchor asked the congressman “Would you open your house to [a refugee]?” He started by replying to another question then said (more or less) “Yes, and many people are saying ‘we’ll open our spare bedrooms, churches and synagogues to these people.” (Curious what building is missing there….)
A noble sentiment indeed, especially in light of my previous post on charity. But that doesn’t make it any less ill-conceived. The tragedy in Syria and Northern Africa is horrific, and due in part, to America receding from the world stage. And I’m probably more amiable to increasing refugee numbers than many. (Although I have reservations on multiple fronts including the economic conditions at home.) But the idea that we should just start housing refugees in spare bedrooms and churches is absurd to say the least. It is, the epitome of “Do Something.”(TM)
The problem with Do Something(TM) is that it’s a purely emotional response that never stops to consider any actual implications, be they long term or short term. It is content to merely say that action was taken (even if that action ends up being ultimately counterproductive.)
Consider this former congressman’s suggestion, what’s the short or even long term play here? Even if we taken on just a couple thousand refugees (a drop in the bucket compared to the 55-70k refuges we already take every year) and put them in church basements…then what? How long will they live there until we figure out step 2? How will we integrate them into an economy that is already faltering, especially at the low wage level? Sure it’s better than Syria (I guess unless you end up in Detroit, East St. Louis, or the like), but it’s hardly long term solution to anything. That and it doesn’t solve any of the real problem (unless we intend to take the entire population of Syria leaving it empty.) It does, however, satisfy that visceral response to be seen as “helping.”
The end result is always the same, regardless of outcome (if they even wait to see what it is) the “Do Something”(TM) brigade will pat itself on the back for having “Done Something”(R) and in a short while the problem will be forgotten or ignored again until it resurfaces in some catastrophic event.
I’ve seen this play out all to often on a smaller scale in personal matters.
It was the Washington Post of all places that noted that perhaps Obama’s signature achievement was convincing Americans to completely ignore the Syrian mess, yet like all of Obama’s “achievements”, this one is crashing down around him before he even leaves office. Suddenly, people content to ignore the situation to shore up their idol want to “Do Something”(TM). Inevitably it won’t be the right thing.