Last week, GOP frontrunner Ben Carson made one of his most notorious remarks by comparing some Syrian refugees to rabid dogs at a campaign stop in Mobile, Alabama. Suggesting we balance our moral obligations with caution, Carson said:
“For instance, if there’s a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog and you’re probably going to put your children out of the way.”
To be honest, we think his dog metaphor is slightly off. Here’s a little tweak we’d offer to make it more suitable to describe the Syrian refugee crisis:
You see a stray Border Collie in your neighborhood. Recently, you read in the news of a surge in Border Collie abuse: Border Collies being inexplicably starved and beaten by their owners, resulting in hundreds of thousands of escaped Border Collies roaming the streets seeking asylum.
Half of these Border Collies are just puppies.
It’s very important, when interacting with a dog you don’t know, not to be mislead by breed-specific stereotypes. Just like humans, no dog is innately good or bad. Their demeanor is a result of upbringing more than genetics. Just because you know of a Pit Bull Terrier that bit somebody in 2001 does not mean that all Pit Bull Terriers are monsters. Most, you’ll find, are loyal and good-natured companions.
As only 5% of the estimated 8% of unvaccinated dogs in the world contract rabies, resulting in the death of just two humans per year, it’s reasonable to assume this Border Collie is rabies-free. It wants food. It was wants shelter. It wants an owner it can feel safe with.
You have a moral obligation to do what you can to help this dog. The least you can do is not adamantly suggest it be sent back to its previous owner.
So, in conclusion, Ben Carson was on the right track in comparing the refugees to dogs. He just got a few details off.