What Keeps Me Up at Night

Normally I write about funny things on my blog. Mostly because I enjoy humor writing (Dave Barry is my literary idol, in particular because of this genius piece). But also because as a mom most things that happen to me on a daily basis are so gross/weird/disturbing that I have only two choices of how to respond – laugh or cry. And I’m kind of an ugly-crier so normally I try to laugh but today –

Well, today I want to talk about something that’s not funny at all.

In fact, it’s so upsetting and frustrating to me that I’ve actually shed more than a few tears as I write this.


We all know about the tragedy that occurred in Paris last week. It was horrific and terrifying and overwhelmingly sad.

But that’s not what keeps me up at night.

Actually, the reason I can’t sleep is I’m trying to figure out how to explain to my daughter the hatred and cowardice that is taking over our nation as we attempt to sort out the Syrian refugee crisis in the wake of Paris.

And it’s not the fact that our mediagenic governors and presidential candidates are making a giant theatrical presentation out of their opposition to accepting refugees in their states (which, as those of us familiar with the constitution already know, is not within their jurisdiction to decide).

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No, that’s not what gets me. Actually I expect that from them. They’re pandering to a largely uneducated and/or intensely fearful electorate that has already proven themselves to be highly xenophobic, as well as a national media base that is clamoring for controversial sound bytes.

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What really gets me, though, is the fear, hatred and bigotry that I see every day, vomited all over social media by my own friends and family.

I’m sorry if my loved ones are offended right now because they’re probably reading this. But I have to say something because you know what – I have to explain this to Mia.

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I have to explain to her how the very people she loves and trusts with her life are so easily willing to turn their backs on other mothers, fathers and children just like her, save for being born in a war-torn country. I have to explain to her how they would justify their own illusion of security as reason enough to let innocent people die.

You can keep justifying your fear with terrorists posing as refugees, religions that glorify evil, and tough choices that have to be made – you can keep on reasoning as long as you want. And I can counter every one of your arguments with one just as valid as you are unlikely to accept it. But I’ll hold onto to my breath. Because, in the end all of these arguments and facts are just small fragments being chipped off a larger moral boulder. One that our nation is teetering precariously on the edge of.

Do you, or do you not believe that American lives are more valuable than others.


I think what I’ll tell Mia is that her friends and family are simply scared. They are really scared and the fear is causing them to react hastily – and to accept memes and sound bytes and showboating politicians as sources of fact, and foreign policy. I’ll remind her that it’s ok to feel scared. But that the best way to overcome fear is with courage and love – not violence and borders.

What feels so ironic to me is that so many of the people opposed to providing refuge to others fleeing terror are the same type of people who would absolutely shame one of their buddies for ducking a bar fight.

They are the kind of people who puff out their chests and say “those assholes would never fuck with me – I’ve got a 9mm under my pillow and another in my belt.” They are the type of people (cough – Donald Trump – cough) that think if they had been there during the attacks they would have blown the mothafuckas to pieces.

These are the same people who suggest we close our borders, lock our doors, board up our windows and hide in the bathtub with a machine gun.

They want to “minimize risk” even if it means more dead toddlers washing up on beaches. More innocent families ripped apart by terror.

If you met one of these families, if you heard the horror they have had to endure, I have to believe you would open your doors. Open your heart.

I have to believe you would because otherwise I will never be able to sleep – knowing that this is the world I am leaving to my daughter.

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt when I explain to her why everyone is fighting. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you just didn’t think it through, haven’t read the article, or let fear overcome you when you hit like, comment or share.

This is not some ridiculous political debate that can be summed up in a meme. It’s a test of our humanity, empathy, kindness and courage. Real lives hang in the balance here, not just poll numbers and Facebook cred.

I love you all very much and I know that you are good people with big, kind hearts. Which is why I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt today.

Please don’t prove me wrong. 


If you still feel unsure about the safety of allowing Syrian refugees into our country, I encourage you to read this article which details the grueling 1-2 year screening process that refugees to the United States endure before being granted (limited) access to our country. I also encourage you to research the last time a refugee in the United States was convicted of domestic terrorism.

If you still feel that safety should be our number one priority – at any cost – I urge you to re-consider your views on background checks for gun owners, as well as security screenings for white men attempting to enter movie theaters, schools and churches.

Just some food for thought.

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5 thoughts on “What Keeps Me Up at Night

  1. Sorry Hannah that you have been exposed to people that you know and love that have such different views – it is so hard to reconcile and for sure a child helps to provide a perspective that is hard to reconcile. I am one family member that is in your court and totally agrees that when you think like a mom how could you ever turn a family away that is trying to protect their children or provide for them a safer place to live. But i live every day with kids who have families that neglect them, abuse them and don’t provide them with the basic needs and love they deserve. Maybe that helps me not put my head in a hole and lose my sense of humanity. I am not on social media so my views are not public but i wanted you to know that you are not alone! Aunt Annie

  2. You have many valid points, except for two. There has been a refugee convicted of domestic terrorism in the United States. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of the Boston Marathon bombing and was a refugee from Kyrgyzstan who had become a naturalized citizen. As far as back ground checks for gun owners it really depends on the state. I happen to live in a state where the process is long and yes, there are extensive background checks. All of the ma ss shootings since the early 90’s were committed by white males, who were all mentally ill. Why have there been so many in the last 20 plus years? Perhaps it has more to do with the closing of most mental health care facilities in this country and the idea that medicating people and sending them out into the world is the answer. I am not fearful of the Syrian refugees, what keeps me up at night is that I know that the mentally ill in this country are not getting the care they need and at any time can become dangerous. Oh, and by the way I live in Newtown CT. I know a little bit about mass shootings.

    • Betsy, I couldn’t agree more. To me, the failing health care and mental health care system in this country – as well as gun control and other domestic issues – are far more concerning and “risky” than allowing Syrian refugees to settle here.

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