Iceland: Land of Something

Iceland: Land of Something

Adrienne BoettingerMonday,14 September 2015

I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for a really long time. To be specific, I’ve now spent half of my life wanting to go there. It started not too long after my high school graduation when one of my best friends and I thought everything in the world would be perfect if we could just get to Iceland and get in some pools of blue mud. She has since gone forth, wed, procreated and has other priorities superseding our once-upon-a-time travel dreams. And despite my intense desire to go there, I’ve yet to actually make the trek.

If I’m being totally honest I know very little about Iceland so why it remains at the top of my travel wish list is a bit of a mystery. Here is what I know:

1. Most of the year it is crazy dark there.

2. Except for the short span of time when it’s daylight for like a bazillion hours in a row. That’s when you can golf at midnight but not easily nap.

3. Icelanders love to drink.

4. Icelanders also love to eat rotten shark (which may be due to #3).

5. They make awesome butter in Iceland.

6. There are blue mud pools that you can get in and it is amazeballs.

7. People who live in Iceland are some of the happiest freaking people on the damn planet.

And now I also know that Icelanders are incredibly generous and the opposite of xenophobic and Muslim-fearing ‘Muricans and nationalist Europeans. I know this because when the government of Iceland recently proposed accepting only 50 Syrian refugees, 10,000 Icelandic citizens offered to take refugees into their own homes.

For a moment, let’s go to the country that seems the bipolar opposite of happy, cold, dark Iceland: Syria. The conflict there is in its fifth year. Over 250,000 people have been killed in this war. Since the start of the war, nearly 4 million refugees have fled the nation; another 7 million remain in the country but have been displaced from their homes. As the nearly unknown Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has written, that means “nearly every other person in Syria has been forced to flee their homes due to war and famine. It would be as if, in the United States, every Californian, Texan, Floridian, New Yorker, Illinoisan, Pennsylvanian, Ohioan, Georgian, North Carolinian and Michigander were forced out of their homes.”

And in the midst of those massive numbers of human tragedy, the picture of one small Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi who drowned trying to flee the war-torn country with his family, prodded the international media and some governments to act with slightly faster than glacial speed to address one of the worst humanitarian crises of our times.

Dealing with the humongous scale of terribleness of the Syrian conflict (caused not just by the terrorists but by the country’s own ex-ophthalmologist leader Bashar al-Assad with help from shirtless, dead-eyed Vladimir Putin) was never going to be simple. And yes, it’s easy to cynically say Icelanders posting on Facebook that they would take in Syrian refugees isn’t the same as the country actually allowing 10,000 Syrians to enter their country. You could also point with semi-pride to the fact that President Obama said the United States would take in 10,000 refugees. But then, Iceland has a population of approximately 323,000 and ranks around the 16th wealthiest economy in the world while the United States has a population of nearly 319,000,000 and ranks around 7th in terms of global wealth. Meanwhile U.S. citizens alarmingly want to elect a bombastic buffoon who claims all Mexican immigrants are rapists and we should close our borders (and get Mexico to foot the bill).

It pains me to say this but at this moment I feel like Icelanders have more reasons to be proud of their country and themselves than we do. Want to prove me wrong? Here are some sites that will allow you to help the staggering amount of Syrian refugees, plus the millions of other refugees around the world fleeing war, death and persecution in their home countries: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, PRI and Doctors Without Borders. And don’t forget you can always contact your elected officials and let them know you want the U.S. to do more.

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Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

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