I’ve never been without a home. If I went out into the world it was because I wanted to. Nothing was chasing me, and if sometimes I went looking for danger it’s because I was so spoiled I didn’t really know what danger was. There was always somewhere safe to go back to, for me.
Now I have kids and everything I’ve ever wanted for myself is dwarfed by the need to make them safe. They have always had a home, too. They don’t know much about fear or pain or real hunger. “I’m starving!” they will yell if dinner is half an hour late.
I took them to their nice schools this morning, through our tree-lined neighborhood, riding their bikes and chatting. I came home and made coffee. I’m trying to write a book but I can’t think straight. I can’t think about anything except the photos and videos I’m seeing of Syrian refugees. What it means to be without a home. What it means to be unsafe. What it means to not be able to protect your children.
YA author Patrick Ness (The Knife Of Never Letting Go, among other books) started a fundraiser for the charity Save The Children, an organization with a good reputation for using funds effectively. He promised to match donations up to £10 000. When that goal was met, other authors jumped on board to match donations, including John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Shannon Hale, Gayle Foreman, Ally Carter, Derek Landry, and many more. The fundraiser is still going and has raised a lot of money. If you can spare anything, click here and please consider donating.
There are days when the images wreck me and I want to bury my head in the sand, which is pretty shitty, and anyway the truth is if you keep your head in the sand too long you’re going to choke on it. Take a deep breath and maybe follow this remarkable page.
We’re all doing that thing where we weep in front of our computer screens and then get on with the day, but there are ways of being truly useful. One good list is here. If you’re in Canada, check this out.
I found this poem on The Middle-Eastern Feminist’s facebook page (linked above). It is by a Somali poet, Warsan Shire, and it is called HOME:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.