Actor George Clooney's political and humanitarian activism is no secret. He has fought for numerous causes throughout the years, whether for Darfur, Haiti, or gay marriage.
His new commitment focuses on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the plight of millions of Syrian refugees. This past Friday, Clooney and wife Amal (a human rights lawyer and activist) met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss this very issue.
Clooney recounted his meeting in an exclusive interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro (my translation):
I met Angela Merkel in the presence of David Miliband, the president of IRC (International Rescue Committee), with whom I have been working for years. My wife and I wanted to meet with Chancellor Merkel because Germany plays a determining role in the refugee crisis, with a great sense of responsibility. Other countries are far behind, including mine, the United States. We only welcome 10,000 refugees per year; this is a shame. Our aid is insufficient.
When asked by the French journalist "Would you be willing to welcome refugees into your home?", Clooney replied:
Amal and I discussed it. It happens that no refugee can set foot in the United States, but we would be ready to do it. I spend two or three days a week trying to raise funds for Syrian refugees, this counts more than anything in my life, actually. I understand your suggestion but I have the impression I am dedicating a lot of energy and time to this cause. Simply because I am lucky. I am not a politician but one thing I can do is attract attention. (Emphasis added)
Is Mr. Clooney misinformed? Syrian refugees not only can and have come to the United States recently, the U.S. government has made arrangements for 10,000 more to arrive in FY 2016 (as he himself pointed out in the interview).
In any case, Mr. Clooney makes a valid point even if he is not quite up front about it. His message seems to be the following: he is deeply touched by this humanitarian crisis, and he wants to help but does not necessarily want his life disrupted. His answer is to raise funds in order to ease the plight of these refugees while keeping his own door closed. Who can blame him for that?
Actually, isn't that what many Americans are advocating as well? They, too, want to help these refugees abroad and have not questioned the U.S. humanitarian aid to the Syrian crisis: $4.5 billion already spent and another $900 million pledged. They just want, like Clooney, their homes (and neighborhoods and country) protected.
Except that Clooney is hailed a humanitarian hero, while they are booed as racists.