Syrian Refugees Are NOT Potentially Poisonous Grapes

In the debate, I often saw an argument along the lines of, “If I gave you 10 grapes and told you two were poisonous, would you eat any?”

It sounds clever. There’s a risk. Most intelligent people would say no, and so the idea is that taking in Syrian refugees when potential terrorists could be hiding among them is akin to consuming grapes when you know they could be poisonous.

This argument is old, as this tweet shows:

Back when the Jews were fleeing the Nazis, nations all around the world denied them access because Nazis might be hiding among them. As a result, many more were killed in the Holocaust that could have been saved.

But what bothers me about the argument is how simplistic it is. It makes it sound like the probability is known, and that the only defense against risk is to avoid it entirely. It also makes the issue about the person being posed the hypothetical and not about who the grapes are.

Saving Syrian refugees isn’t the same as benignly eating a bowl of grapes or M&Ms and “knowing” some are poisonous.

It’s like knowing that there are people in a burning building and questioning whether or not to bother trying to get them out on the chance that some of them are arsonists.

“If there were 10 people in a building, and I told you two were arsonists, would you rescue any?” is about how the grape analogy sounds. Now suddenly we KNOW that there are arsonists among them. We even have a specific number, which makes this choice seem like a balance of odds.

And yet, despite knowing we could always find non-poisonous grapes or even some other food, allowing us to pass on this specific bunch of grapes, we still feel like the non-arsonists deserve to be saved from that building, right? I hope?

Syrian refugees are people fleeing a real danger. We have an opportunity to do the right thing and save them from the people we are supposedly afraid they are.

We lock our doors to protect the people inside, but I would question what kind of person you are to leave outside someone who is literally begging for his/her life.

5 comments to Syrian Refugees Are NOT Potentially Poisonous Grapes

  • Jonathon Wisnoski

    1) I never really understood why the pro-refugee people are bringing up the Jewish refugees. Back then, America (et al) denied them access into the country. Does the not give us MORE reason to follow our ancesstors on the matter, not less? And pointing out how the situation and fears were even closer to our own, just gives us even more reason to follow their example. I don’t understand the argument at all.

    2) And I do not see that example as any more accurate. Even you would agree that it might be a good idea to hold these 10 people (including 2 arsonists) for questioning?

  • 1) So if I understand your position, you think the US made the right decision in denying Jewish refugees? I disagree, and I think the world’s opinion on the matter said it was a mistake.

    2) But that’s just it. We aren’t just opening the doors blindly and letting everyone in. We ARE holding these 10 people for questioning.

    So, given that we screen people, and reports indicate that it is the most stringent screening process in the world, why is the rhetoric acting like the United States of America is completely incompetent when it comes to screening who comes in?

    Why is the rhetoric usually about denying refugees completely?

    No one is arguing about poisoned grapes and saying, “I think we need a process in place before we let them in.”

    They are arguing about poisoned grapes to say, “Hopefully they go somewhere else.”

  • Jonathon Wisnoski

    1) I did not know that there was a world opinion on the subject. I did not think anyone was even aware of these polls until a few days ago. My position is that they made the decision, and were the only legitimate people to make that decision. I am not going to go call their decision obviously wrong 100 years latter with zero knowledge of the whole situation. Like your post points out, most people aware of the Jewish refugees now are not even aware of the fear of them hiding Nazi operatives. So how can we judge what the right decision should of been? My stance is that these are our ancestors, they made the world (partly in their anti-refugee stance) we live in. Everything we have we owe to them, so why would I consider their decision wrong?

    All I know is that it was a decision that was made, and like our laws work on common law (aka past decisions are considered defacto correct), the logical course would be to consider past opinion and decisions by America as defacto correct without a preponderance of proof against this. So if you want people to believe that this decision was wrong, then actually including a reason and evidence to believe that might help.

    2) I have heard far more opinion on strengthening the screenings than denying them. One of the bigger stories is how Obama is vetoing increasing the refugee screenings. But I really do not understand this either and doubt that their is any screening procedure that will filter out a single terrorist. These are just people with the cloths on their back fleeing from a country that has no ability to share records even if these refugees had identification with them. I do not see how we could tell one from the other, no matter how long we screen them for. And what does it even matter? If they are ISIS agents they hate America and will try to kill people. And if they are legitimate refugees, they are running from a war America started; And unless they are idiots will hate America just as much as ISIS does. Spending the last decade torturing and killing millions of middle eastern civilians, and then accepting some of your victims into your country, just does not make a whole lot of sense to me.

  • There has been a lot of discussion for decades about the Jewish refugees from Europe. It’s not new. It’s just not usually relevant to today’s politics. There’s plenty of discussion about it elsewhere. I didn’t feel the need to present evidence to justify a tangential position in this article that a good chunk of the world has discussed to death. In fact, the US populace changed their mind towards the end of the war, so the decision being considered wrong is also history.

    As for increasing refugee screenings, as I said, they are the most stringent in the world already. And not just by a little. Adding more to the almost 2-year-long effort seems to be adding insult to injury for little gain.

    And just because you’re thinking you could not tell the difference between people who have no documents, it doesn’t mean the screening that has already been going on for years hasn’t gotten better at it than your amateur eyes.

    I find the argument bizarre. I wouldn’t know the difference between some of a surgeon’s tools, but I wouldn’t talk as if no one could.

  • Jonathon Wisnoski

    That’s fair. I just have never seen this opinion. In my experience of seeing this story of Jewish refugees it is put forth as something you probably have never heard about before. In that way, I have never seen it used as an argument; as it is not designed to change anyone’s opinion. I guess those who already believe in refugees no matter the situation will go: “here look at this. We made this obviously wrong decision, lets not make it again”. While those who are undecided or against refugees sometimes will obviously not see it as necessarily a wrong decision.

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