Refugees and Analogies 

Recently, there was a “possible act of terrorism” in my home state.  Cross Roads Mall in St. Cloud Minnesota saw a violent man tear through, leaving 10 people injured by stab wounds until he was shot by an off duty police officer.

St. Cloud is my husband’s home town, it is where we met at St. Cloud State University…I even worked in the Cross Roads Mall while going to college.  This hit very close to home, very close to our heart.

It’s easy to let fear take over in the shadow of these kinds of attacks.  It is easy to draw the line between “us” and “them”.

Soon after the attack I saw and heard many people sharing a candy analogy in reference to refugees- using the St. Cloud attack as the basis.  It goes something like this: if I gave you a bowl of M&Ms/skittles/candy and told you that only three would kill you, would you still take the chance and eat the candy?  See!  That’s like the refugees, they may not all be dangerous but we can’t take the chance if even one is!

Okay, I definitely wouldn’t eat candy that has a few poisoned pieces, I’ll give you that.  But that analogy is a false equivalence.  I immediately thought of my own analogy to the refugee crisis.

In the case of a school shooting, teachers are to immediately lock their doors and secure their class.  No exceptions.  If a child is out in the hallway or using the restroom, it is up to them to find a hiding place in a bathroom stall or trying to escape.  Once a lockdown is in effect no doors are to be opened until the building is secured.  So you’re a teacher to a class of kindergarteners, one of which you just excused to the bathroom, and a lockdown is called.  Bullets ring out down the hallway, there is screaming, crying, panic.  You rush to the door to lock it and see the little boy who just went to the bathroom, on the other side of the door looking up to you for safety.

You know you aren’t supposed to open the door because you don’t know who the threat could be, you could be exposing the other 12 kids to possible danger by opening the door.  But by locking it on this little boy, you are sealing his fate, he will most likely die.  All because he has the misfortune on being on the wrong side of the door when the shots began?

Shots are being fired, more screaming, what are you going to do?  Do you keep this door shut and let a young boy die?

Now how about this one:

The school shooting analogy is surely more uncomfortable and less straight forward than the candy analogy.  But the reality is that this should be an uncomfortable question with no easy answers.

I can tell you for myself, I still remember my sixth grade teacher telling us that rule before we did our first lockdown drill.  Columbine happened the spring before and schools now came up with rules and drills for active shooter situations.  I remember being terrified when my teacher told us the official rule of hiding or running if you were caught in the hallway during an attack.  But I also remember the conviction in his eyes and sincerity in his voice when he firmly told us “but I will never leave you, I refuse to lock you out.”

Years and years later when I was teaching my own pre-k class, we too had lockdowns, with the same rules.  I made a silent promise to myself that I would never leave a child in the hallway, even if that child wasn’t from my class.  It would be easy to say “not my student, not my responsibility” but it would be much more difficult to live with the reality that you could have saved a child but let fear get the best of you.

Whether the misfortune be on the other side of the door, or on the other side of the world, we will be judged for the help we give or the help we withhold.  There have already been children lost because of inaction, all they were trying to do was get to the other side, get to safety.

Will you now open the door?


2 thoughts on “Refugees and Analogies 

  1. This is such a good way to make people think. I also reallllllllly hate this candy analogy because what if the big bowl of skittles had three skittles that could cure cancer, would you eat them? Yes bad people cross our borders, but good people (doctors, scientists, change makers, etc.) also cross our borders. To generalize like that is just so outrageous.

    And furthermore, our lovely hometown paper; Brainerd Dispatch was posting headlines about ISIS before any facts were released. Makes me so sad, and doesn’t help open up the minds of people in that area.


    • Exactly! The candy analogy is just so dehumanizing. I remember learning about the holocaust and asking why we didn’t do more to stop it- years from now will we be telling our grandchildren “well let’s say you have skittles…” Oy. Vey.
      I saw the Dispatch and people we know commenting on it. I think I’ll be skipping our reunion, I’ll say that much. Very disheartening.


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