I have trouble taking certain people seriously, particularly the self-appointed foreign policy experts on Facebook who publicly offer bold opinions on what our country should do with Syrian refugees. I suspect that most of these people couldn’t even tell me which countries border Syria without looking it up on Wikipedia. Anyone that unqualified to know what is really going on probably shouldn’t be so quick to pass judgment on the people fleeing that country to seek a better life.

Apparently, plenty of people oppose efforts to help these families who are fleeing horrific circumstances at great personal risk try to make their lives better elsewhere. Our state’s esteemed governor also voiced opposition to letting any Syrian refugees live in Kansas, continuing Sam Brownback’s perfect track record of being on the least-compassionate side of every major issue.

I understand that the actions of a select group of Muslims have given people valid reason for concern, and that no one wants terrorism to threaten their communities. However, the percentage of Muslims who participate in these incidents is extremely small. There are more than a billion Muslims on the planet, and the vast majority of them are not gunning down people at rock concerts, trying to blow up soccer stadiums, or flying airplanes into buildings. They’re too busy working and taking care of their kids to do any of that.

If people took the time to talk to Muslims instead of posting paranoid rants about them on Facebook, they would surmise that those who practice this religion generally want the same thing everyone else wants – a better world for themselves and their families. So why treat them any differently than we would treat anyone else?

Sure, Muslim leaders have questionable views when it comes to subjugating women and not being very nice to homosexuals, but a lot of vocal Christian leaders have expressed very similar views. Judging all Muslims as unfit to live with seems as unfair as judging all Christians by those throughout history who have done horrible things in the name of their religion or who have quoted the Bible to justify bad decisions. That seems about as fair as judging all Kansans by the relatively few who voted to elect Brownback. Instead, everyone should be accepted on their individual merits on their own terms, no matter where they’re from, or what religion they practice.

Why not try being nice and welcoming to those who have suffered under some pretty desperate circumstances as of late, and could probably use some help? If we went through something similar in our country, I am sure we would want somebody to offer us the same kind of courtesy. Plus, our state could certainly use some hard-working new residents to contribute to its economy.

Maybe I feel some sympathy for these refugees, because I too am fleeing the homeland I’ve lived in for the last four years this week. I may not have witnessed a war or life under an oppressive regime similar to what has been experienced in Syria for the last decade, but I have sat through enough five-hour Neosho County Commission meetings to know when it is time to move on.  

It’s not a very well-kept secret that I am leaving Chanute to take a job covering sports closer to my old stomping grounds in St. Louis.

Being an outsider to the community, Chanute wasn’t initially the easiest place to move and make new friends. People here weren’t all that eager to take in an outspoken outsider with differing opinions and questionable views. It took me a while to develop any kind of real support system in this community.

Eventually, I did meet some really great people here that made the decision to leave a difficult one. These include my bosses and co-workers here at the Tribune; the coaches, athletes, city and county employees, and politicians that I have covered; the readers who have been so nice and responsive to me and this column through the last few years; Trivia night and game night participants; St. NFL parishioners; employees of downtown Chanute bars and restaurants; and other great friends that my girlfriend and I have made here.

As I close this chapter in my life, I hope that no more downtown Chanute bars become vacant lots. I hope that certain local politicians eventually make good on their promise to let the public vote on the fiber plan. I hope that the next person who gets this reporting gig for the Tribune gets as much support from readers as I eventually did. And I hope that we can all decide to stop being so unnecessarily judgmental toward refugees from these war-torn countries and others who might want to move to this area. Being a little more welcoming to outsiders who are simply trying to better their lives would be the ultimate way to help this country, this state, and this community grow to their potential. I look forward to seeing that happen from afar.

Sending questions, comments, hate mail, and marriage proposals to my work email address probably won’t do much good now, but if regular readers want to electronically keep track of me, send any of these important items to brianmcdowell1975@hotmail.com

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