The irony of the violent European and American reactions to migrants in need is the history of freedom and unity we pride ourselves in. In the Europe, revolutions calling for “liberty, equality, and brotherhood”; in the United States, we broke off from the British with Patrick Henry proclaiming, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” While Western countries consistently take pride in our history with national holidays, the governments and citizens tend to forget that migrants have adapted such similar ideas and values. Even at just 16 years old, Adeline reflects almost Henry’s exact enthusiasm: “We’ll make it to Europe, or we’ll die trying.” Flavio marches through the desert for a greater future. Najia fights the risks of being a solo woman traveler.
Yet, almost 250 years later, the United States and Europe push migrants away from their shores. We can say these modern-day rebels are not deserving of our rights to live and travel comfortably, but cannot ignore the significantly greater desperation and needs they have. In torturing asylum seekers and maintaining racialized military strategies, we have forgotten the values ingrained in our rights. Perhaps in forgetting our rights are not privileges, common discourse on entitlement and what human beings deserve has evolved into our current political climate. It is essential for us to revisit not only the atrocities we have committed, but also the enlightenment of human rights we had strived to maintain in our societies. Perhaps in this way, we may empathize rather than sympathize with migrants, who are justly as human as us.