Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dream Boat

Luke Mogelson and his photographer may seem crazy to endure a journey that they know often ends in death; truly one wonders when finishing the article what would provoke them to make the perilous refugee trip from Jakarta to Australia owned Christmas Island. They had to lie, haggle, and pay their way onto the boat in order to suffer alongside the long waiting, near starving, endlessly ill Iranians seeking a better home.  The intention seems clear - to present a firsthand account unlike any other. No one who actually went through this trip in search of a better home would risk rehashing their experience. The risks that the reporters took serve to illustrate how much riskier the trip was for the actual refugees - the reporters knew that at the end of this journey, they could go back home to their families and have a relatively safe shield as reporters. They know where they're safe, they have opportunities, connections, and money to live on. These are all things that the refugees do not have.

What makes this so successful is the direct, interesting way that Mogelson describes the events. So many anti-immigration and anti-refugee people in the world are too far separated from the people themselves to feel sorry for them or to even understand why they're trying anything they can to leave their home countries. Mogelson humanizes every refugee he describes. He also focuses in on one family in particular that he and his photographer stay with, fleshing out their personalities, hopes, and dreams. The children of this family especially make the reader sympathize with their plight - although they are living in a dump waiting for a phone call that may never come, the "thrill of the adventure eclipsed the hardships and hassles."

Along with his narrative of the trip, he describes Australia's long battle with how they should be dealing with the refugees. Juxtaposed with what we now know of the families, they seem harsh and cruel. When we hear of the hunger strikes and suicides of the detention center refugees, we understand that this - or death during the journey - will likely be the destination of all those who are fleeing on the boat.

If this is just one of thousands of families all looking for the same thing, only then can you truly understand their struggle. Mogelson says himself, "That people are willing to hazard death at sea despite Australia's vow to send them to places like Papa New Guindea and the Republic of Nauru would seem illogical - or just plain crazy ... But every asylum seeker who believes those lies believes them because he chooses to. Their doing so, and continuing to brave the Indian Ocean, and continuing to die, only illustrates their desperation in a new, disturbing king of light. This is the subtext to the plight of every refugee: Whatever hardship he endures, he endures it because it beats the hardship he escaped." Truly no first world individual could relate to that on any level.

This point of view, therefore, comes from both a first-hand account and of an outside account to the struggles that the refugees face. After everything he had been through in the perilous trip, Mogelson ends his article feeling "obliged" to inform a refugee that there was no way he would end up in Australia, only to have his words "not register." Hope, truly, is better than nothing for not only these people, but everyone. If your only chance to live a life not full of squalor, danger, poverty, and sickness is the most far-fetched chance there could be, how many people would honestly accept that and give up?

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