Applying Rules of Logic to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Despite blocking all facebook sites that feature an image of the Confederate flag, I have nonetheless seen a lot of facebook posts supporting the blockage of Syrian refugees coming to the USA. That tells me that support runs high for the Syrian refugee blockage and I need to block more facebook sites. What I have seen are attempts to make clever arguments that tug at our heartstrings regarding the plight of the homeless here in the USA rather than abroad. The problem is that the arguments are all logically fallacious.

Please allow me to introduce to you the Fallacy of the Alternative Disjunct. By writing those words, I have 100% guaranteed that this blog post will not be adapted into major motion picture. I may have also lost all readers at this point. Anyone still there? Rend your garments in two if you are still reading. There, aren’t they roomier and more comfortable? Now you have more room for upcoming holiday goodies. You are welcome.

Getting back to the logical fallacy, what I see are anti-Syrian refugee arguments that start something like this: “We need to help the homeless here in the good ole’ USA.” Well, duh, of course we do. The problem is that when a member of my church’s congregation wanted to start a homeless shelter in our town, she had to just about stand on her head while riding a bicycle (speaking of logical fallacies, did you catch that logically fallacious image?) to get that approved by the City Council. The spirit is willing, but the flesh doesn’t want to deal with the homeless issues. Their stories are almost always sad, they’re hungry, and sometimes they are a bit smelly and may be suffering from mental illness. That is just not a comfortable combination. How do I know all this? I was homeless myself once. After my ex-wife and I split, I slept on a couch in my office at work and showered at the health club for one night. Somehow I survived. I have also volunteered my time at actual homeless shelters.

The Fallacy of the Alternative Disjunct can be stated:

P or Q. If P, then not Q. If Q, then not P.

Do you follow that? If not, you should have listened when your mom told you to watch your P’s & Q’s. In the case of the Syrian refugees, we can break it down like this:

(P) Help the homeless in the USA   OR   (Q) Help the Syrian refugees

The argument made is that if we help the Syrian refugees (Q), we can’t help the homeless in the USA (P). That my friends is the Fallacy of the Alternative Disjunct. Of course, we can try and do both P & Q. This is freakin’ America. We have sent men to the moon. We have squirtable cheese in a can. We have razors with 4 blades. We have the NFL. In this case, Q is actually easier. We are talking about 10,000 Syrian refugees, 50% of them kids and only 25% of them potentially smelly men. They have also been 100% interviewed and vetted to remove potential trouble-makers. I recommend we send the trouble-makers and the mentally ill to Australia like in the good old days.

Option P, helping the homeless in the USA, is where the problem lies. It is hard to pin down an exact number of homeless, but from what I can tell, on any given night in the USA, there are 500,000 to 1,000,000 homeless, of which 50,000 are US veterans. In any given year, up to 3,500,000 people may experience some form of homelessness. I’m guessing my night on that office couch does not count. Those numbers identify a huge problem that I really think our politicians don’t give a rat’s ass about. I don’t hear the Democrat in the White House or the Republican Congress talking about addressing the homeless problem in the USA. Actually, if I wanted to use the Fallacy of the Alternative Disjunct myself, I could say that since we are not doing P, then we can do Q. But that would be fallacious reasoning.

The bottom line is that we can do better as a nation. We have a chance to provide 10,000 Syrian people a second chance here in the USA over the next 12 months. Some will make it and become productive members of society. Unfortunately, some will undoubtedly join the ranks of millions of homeless in the USA. It is admirable to want the homeless problem “fixed” in the USA first, but unless someone like my fellow church member rises up in every community, our politicians won’t address a problem of that magnitude that has no easy solution. Let’s do the right thing and give new starts to the 10,000 Syrians.

If you have actually finished reading all of this, whether you agree or disagree, then I love you. That is not fallacious logic, and no, I will not pay for your ripped clothes from paragraph 2.


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