Not in My Backyard

There’s an interesting dichotomy playing out in Salt Lake City, one that is reflective of our common schizophrenia over certain social issues. On one hand we have protesters marching to demonstrate their disdain for President Trump’s travel ban, chanting phrases such as “nothing great about hate.” On the other hand we have protesters marching to demonstrate their disdain for Salt Lake City’s plans to build a homeless shelter on Simpson Avenue and 700 East. The reason for their outrage is that the shelter will displace local businesses that have been at that location for years.

In a perfect world we’d all agree that refugees should be given refuge in a safe country. Most Americans came to the United States somewhat as refugees — seeking a safe place so they could worship or live or associate as they wished. Some came as actual refugees, fleeing wars in Europe and other places. Members of the LDS faith settled this valley as refugees from religious persecution in Missouri, Illinois and other states. In that same perfect world we’d all agree that we should do something about the homeless rather than leave them under viaducts and in Pioneer Park. So why is it that the refugees get the thumbs’ up from the protesters while the homeless get the thumbs’ down?

I think it’s a case of proclaiming globally but living locally. It’s all well and good in theory to have homeless shelters, except when it’s proposed to be in your back yard. Then it becomes an issue of displacing favorite businesses, crime, drug use, vagrancy and all the problems that accompany homelessness. Likewise with refugees from other countries. Yes, it sounds good to say, come here, we welcome you. But where? We can’t put them in the Nevada desert and say, “good luck.” Who will pay for housing, food, education, medical care, clothing, transportation and all the other costs associated with providing refugees a safe place to live? As in anything, choices have consequences.

I wish this was a perfect world. This post isn’t to take sides on the issue. It’s just an observation. It seems to me that we are much more accepting and welcoming when it isn’t in our own back yard.