I’m sitting on the bench sipping hot chocolate to brace myself from the chilly ocean breeze in Athens. I have a hundred euros and my passport(s) hidden in a secret compartment in my purse. Tapping away at my iPhone.
Directly opposite me is a woman in a hijab washing a plain white tshirt with the public beach showers and drying them on a tree.
A Syrian woman.
To my left are two men laying in the shade with kids wearing clothes two sizes too small playing catch with a styrofoam cup.
Syrian fathers and Syrian children.
Driving to dinner, we pass an abandoned airport filled with dozens of identical pop-up tents.
To whoever claims all Muslims are terrorists and believes we should build a wall to keep them out. To whoever believes that we need a Muslim identification system that blatantly mirrors Hitlers. To whoever thinks that the Europeans (and in particular the Greeks) should ignore the refugees and send them back:
Go travel. Because until you see and experience it with your own eyes, your opinions are invalid.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re all guilty of misperception and being quick to judge. Myself included. I thought that my degree in Sociology meant that I knew a thing or two about poverty. Not until I went to Sri Lanka did I realize what it was really about. Similarly, I’ve seen the news and I’ve seen the same Facebook posts and articles you have. But it’s not until I got to Athens and saw the situation did I really have a (albeit small) grasp of it.
But the first step to bettering yourself is understanding your flaws in the first place.