Closing the borders

Matt Eidson, News Editor

During the spring 2016 semester, I interviewed a group of students in the multicultural center following an incident involving a racially insensitive Snapchat photo. The photo depicted white students from UND with a text that read, “locked the black bitch out.”

As a journalist, I consider it my responsibility to collect as many opinions about an incident as possible; to view an issue through as many sets of eyes as I can. So when I started talking to these students, I wanted to understand what they were thinking. I wanted to know what they were feeling.

At a certain point, I asked the students what they would say to someone who asserted that the photo was just a joke and that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Following the question, a young woman looked down at her arm, noting the color of her skin, and said, “When I look at this, I don’t see anything funny.”

Those words have stuck with me to this day. For days afterward all I could think about was how I had approached similar situations in the past. I used to be of the opinion that, though it’s tasteless to make jokes at the expense of another, they are simply jokes. But after actually sitting and talking with these students, I began to see that my opinion was merely that: my opinion, and that there is more than one way to interpret a situation.

Recently, it was passed down from the Oval Office the American border would be closed to several countries, mainly countries where the majority of the citizens were Muslim. At first, I merely shook my head and went about my day, convincing myself there was nothing I could do, so I shouldn’t concern myself with the decision.

Then an email was sent out to all UND students. The email suggested the international students, staff and faculty should refrain from traveling outside the U.S. until more information could be gathered. When I read that email, my opinion changed.

I began to wonder why America would do something like this. Why would we shut our borders to immigrants? In this journalist’s opinion, the reason the border was closed was simple: fear.

“We have lost sight of what it truly means to be an American and to live in this country.”

— Matt Eidson

We live in a country where extremists have made their way across the border and done terrible things. Innocent Americans have died at the hands of people filled with hate. They despise everything about us. Seeing these attacks plastered across the news so often, we began to fear for our lives.

Not just our lives, but also the lives of our loved ones. What if something happened to me? What if something like this happened to someone I love? The fear of the unknown took hold of us.

We allowed this uncertainty to control our thoughts, and before we knew it, we were no longer afraid of terrorists or extremists, we were afraid of everybody.

Suddenly, these people flooding into our country in search of safety were no longer seen as people, they were seen as potential threats. What if more terrorists slipped into the country and killed more innocent Americans? What should we do about this?

We didn’t want to become victims to the atrocities visited upon so many others. And because of our fear, we shut everyone out.

We have now reached a point where immigrants, who have risked their lives to come to our country, are no longer being considered people. We have lost sight of what it truly means to be an American and to live in this country. And as such, we are turning our backs on people who are begging us for one simple thing: compassion.

I’m just a college student, and I don’t have all the answers to life. I don’t know what to do about the fact that our border is closed to those in need. In a way, I feel helpless.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. While we might not be able to sit down with our president and attempt to reason with him, we can make a change on a smaller scale.

If you are hurting; if you are confused; if you are upset; I ask you to take a moment to reach out to another person and express these things.

We can’t continue to shut ourselves off from the world around us because we’re afraid. We need to reach out to everyone, even those different than us, and help them understand we don’t hate them, and we aren’t afraid of them.

We understand they are simply people trying to get by in a world that can sometimes feel as though it’s completely against you.

To those who are personally affected by this border closing, I cannot begin to express my sorrow. I’m sorry this is happening, and I wish I could do more.

But even the largest changes start small. And maybe by reading these words, you’ll understand that not everyone is blind to your struggle. I hope you find some comfort, no matter how small, in knowing that there are people who care.

Matt Eidson is the news editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]