Bad, human! Bad!

“Reading comment sections on the Internet is like digging to the bottom of your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer to investigate a foul smell: You honestly don’t want to look because — although you never know exactly what you’ll find there — you’re 100 percent sure you’re going to be totally disgusted by it.”

That sentence I wrote for my October column in Pittsburgh Magazine is CHURCH. It is TRUTH. It is GOSPEL.


With that said, I read some comments and I really regret it, but I’m going to write about it and you’re going to read this and you’re either going to agree with me, or you’re going to go to bed tonight with a nagging feeling in your brain that you’re not being a good and decent member of the HUMAN RACE.

The headline is “Peduto joins mayors urging Obama to welcome more Syrian refugees.”

Do you know what Syria is like right now? It is HELL. The closest thing to actual hell. And at no fault of their own, the Syrian people have found themselves in grave danger. Their human lives in danger. Their children’s HUMAN lives in danger.

Look at your kid, who at no doing of their own but rather PURE LUCK, was born into safety. Look at your niece or nephew who will sleep tonight, safely. Fed. Comfortable. Educated. Living a life.

Imagine instead your child is in grave danger every day. Life is hell. Bombs are falling. There is no safety. There is no comfort. There is no school. There is hell and fear and pain and tears. IMAGINE IT.

And rather than stay there and face the death and hellfire, you will take a chance on a raft. You’ll put your kid on that raft out to the unpredictable sea because THAT is less of a risk than staying in your home.

Your child in America, like mine, probably gets a bit testy when his daily routine fluctuates. Imagine taking your child away from home and WALKING and WALKING and WAITING for days and days without shelter and minimal food. Imagine the fear, the crying, and your complete inability to comfort that level of life-upheaval for a child.

Be a human and imagine that please.


Your heart hurts. Like my Syrian heart hurts. My grandfather was born on the boat from Syria. He came to America with his many brothers and sisters. I am a moderate-conservative, Christian Arab-American, and you have ZERO idea what that actually means so for the love of Nutella do not email me and accuse me of supporting or not supporting anything that you hold dear to your heart.

Four million Syrians are on the run. HALF OF THEM ARE CHILDREN.

Read that again. Look in your kids’ eyes. Then read that again.

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See that face?

Here’s what one commenter named called him and others like him, who he DOES NOT WANT TO COME TO PITTSBURGH …



“Nasty refugees.”

Another commenter?


It’s Jihad.

These people aren’t fleeing death! They’re coming to us for holy war!

Camps like this are where hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are being raised. Doesn't stop them having fun. #syria #refugees #lebanon

A photo posted by Liz Sly (@lizslywp) on

You can read the comments from some Pittsburghers yourself, but here’s an awful snippet of a few. Brace yourselves.

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Oh, Jim Kramer, whoever you are at PNC, you are not a bad conservative republican. You are what we call a bad human being.

We are simply talking about America doing what America did to become America: bring in immigrants. Let them build a life here. Let them find safety here. Let them contribute here. Who knows what these children will grow up to be. Doctors? Journalists? Veterinarians? Robotics experts? Entrepreneurs? Philanthropists?

But I can pretty much guarantee they will not grow up to be jihadists.

Stop thinking with your politically poisoned brain and start thinking with your love-capable heart.

Peduto isn’t asking for half-a-million refugees to come to Pittsburgh. He’s asking Obama to increase the number of refugees he’ll bring into ALL of America, a number that currently stands at an embarrassingly low 10,000.

“Plenty of bridges they can live below.”


Some of the Syrian refugee children I met: these two were swinging in their shack in Al-Minya, near Tripoli. #refugees

A photo posted by Liz Sly (@lizslywp) on

“It amazed me at the level of desperation these families are at.”

Did that commenter REALLY write that unironically? How unfeeling can you be? And that’s coming from a person who has been called a “heartless wench.”

The level of desperation THESE FAMILIES are at?! As an INSULT?!

Have you never felt desperation? I pray you never do. It’s a truly awful, awful feeling and I have felt it and I have gone to bed with it and I have woken up with it and if not for the safety net of my parents, me and my family could have been out on the streets.

This is a camp near Kfardebian in Bekaa. There was garbage everywhere. #syria #refugees #lebanon

A photo posted by Liz Sly (@lizslywp) on

Desperation. That environment would make any human feel desperation.

I’m a bit aghast, guys.

This callousness cannot represent Pittsburgh. We must be better. Become better. Think like humans not like political robots who just follow the party path all “beep-boop-Trump-no-like-immigrants-beep-boop-me-no-like-immigrants.”

Knowing another human is desperate must not become the foundation for insults and apathy, or we are no better than those who pledge allegiance to ISIS. Desperation, if we are to retain our humanity, must become the foundation for COMPASSION. That’s what makes us better than those who are causing the havoc in Syria. That’s what rises us above. That’s what changes things for the BETTER.

I wrote something recently, coincidentally, about prejudice in Pittsburgh. Maybe you should read it.

Open your hearts, Burghers. Open them wide to these FAMILIES. I don’t beg this of you as a Syrian; I beg this of you as a human being.

Because as John Fetterman calls it, “the lottery of our birth” is the ABSOLUTE ONLY REASON we aren’t fleeing Syria ourselves.


  1. Adriane
    September 30, 2015 11:07 am

    Thank you for writing this Ginny. While there are cogent issues that can be rationally debated about refugees, immigration, and other international issues, they don’t appear in the comments you highlight in your post. Hate mongering and a general lack of compassion is what I see instead. People forget that we are a country of immigrants – almost every last one of us. It is likely that the grandparents or great-grandparents of some of those commenting came to this country with little more than hopes, dreams, and the clothes on their backs. I am surprised that our memories are too short to recall those moments in history. MLK Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That sentiment feels relevant here.

  2. Chuck Simpson
    September 30, 2015 11:11 am

    I think all of those folks acting like nasty human beings need to be reminded that most, if not all of them, would not be living in this country today if the attitudes they are expressing today stopped their relatives from entering the US when they came here. Just about every nationality that came here, arrived to escape the crappy situation they had somewhere else. Oh how quickly they forget! Who are they to make comments putting people down who want a better life here. We are supposed to be the melting pot. That is what makes this country great. We need to help our fellow man (and woman) and cause no harm to others. Try following the golden rule.

  3. Melissa
    September 30, 2015 11:12 am

    Thank you for writing this. It amazes me daily how many people can’t look outside of the box they live in. These quoted comments are a perfect example of how human decency is hard to find.

    On a side note, I say to my husband at least once a week, “why, why do I do this to myself and read the comments?” It doesn’t matter the subject…

  4. Jenny
    September 30, 2015 11:13 am

    Would love to see Peduto take a few in to shut the lot of them up. Ugh.

  5. Patty
    September 30, 2015 11:14 am

    I cannot believe the man who was so offended that desperate, hungry, homeless refugees had marred the atmosphere at his luxury vacation resort. Like, does he think these folks have left their home towns, their houses or apartments, their jobs–everything they know, love, and own–for the pleasure of a life-threatening voyage and appalling, uncertain living conditions? We’re not supposed to judge, but I wonder if this guy attends church. I understand that it is indeed unpleasant to encounter beggars, as it reminds us that there but for the grace of God go we. But it makes me so sad to believe that a person can be so callous. Moreover, several people “liked” his comment. I was going to reply to his comment on the Trib page, but I see such an overwhelming wave of irrational fear and ugliness, that I feel it would be futile and most likely fan the flames of hate.

  6. Cindy T.
    September 30, 2015 11:18 am

    I’m with you Virginia. How could you look at any suffering human and turn away?

  7. Chris
    September 30, 2015 11:45 am

    Agree wholeheartedly! I started to read the comment section on those articles and felt sick to my stomach. Humans of NY is giving a platform to these refugees and telling their stories. Everyone should be following them.

  8. Michelle
    September 30, 2015 11:55 am

    This was beautifully written. My heart breaks into a million pieces every time I see the photos of these desperate people. Not because I’m a democrat, but because I’m a human. I’m ashamed of these Burghers. We need to be better than this.

  9. Sooska
    September 30, 2015 1:08 pm

    Every non-NativeAmerican has descended from immigrants. Every one.

    Witness the poem, that many of us learned in grade school, engraved on The Statue of Liberty:

    The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  10. matt pritt
    September 30, 2015 1:16 pm

    I have often argued that comment sections in newspapers and news sites should be removed, they ad nothing to the narrative of the actual news story and usually consist of people yelling at each other. Sadly I have lived the comment section in real time, a while back I was guest hosting for Lynn Cullen on 1360 am. As a guest I had on Luis Alberto Urrera, who wrote a book, “The Devii’s Highway, which was about the the most people to die in one attempted border crossing between Mexico and the United States. The book delved into a lot of the problems from both sides of the fence, the overwhelmed border patrol, the people seeking to come here who have put their faith it “coyotes” who may or may not be reputable or even competent. The calls I got during that interview were all spewing hate and venom at the guest. It was one of those times where I was embarrassed to be and American and a Pittsburgher.

  11. JJ
    September 30, 2015 1:23 pm

    Remember when comments under articles, etc, were anonymous? And we thought they were so ugly because of ‘the anonymity of the web?’ So disheartening to know that’s not true.

    We’re Pittsburghers here. We’re all just a few generations away from some ancestor hoping for a better life. Let’s show them a little grace and humanity.

  12. Carrie
    September 30, 2015 1:24 pm

    I was one of the people who said “NO! No refugees in America” until last week when I really started paying attention. I’ve changed my mind. My husband survived both attacks on the World Trade Center. After Sept. 11, we moved back home to the Pittsburgh area. I have lived in a shell of fear since then, constantly worried about another terrorist attack. The thought of allowing undocumented people into the US seems ludicrous. Terrorists can sneak in among the legitimate refugees. That’s been my only fear. Until I read one man’s story about fleeing Syria. Then I read a woman’s story about her husband drowning when their boat capsized. I saw their pictures. They are PEOPLE. REAL PEOPLE. They had homes and jobs and refrigerates and tvs and maybe even pets- just like me. No – living in my shell of fear isn’t enough for me anymore. We have to help these people. If they do come to Pittsburgh, sign me up to help them.

  13. Disheartened
    September 30, 2015 1:54 pm

    Maybe it was the rainy day that made me miss going to the Bucs’ game I’d been anticipating for weeks, but I’m feeling really sour on people and life right now. Reading this sealed it. I live in a country where a huge number of people slobber over Trump and think he’d make a great president. Another large percentage advertise their devotion to their God by voicing hate, greed, intolerance and selfishness. And then there’s the substantial number who are so stupid I don’t know how they remember to breathe. What’s wrong with people? It only seems to get worse.

    • MattDC
      September 30, 2015 3:38 pm

      Because my work involves a lot of reading political news sites, I also subjected myself to large daily doses of comment sections. I slowly found that it was actually reducing my quality of life by chipping away at my faith in human nature. I discovered that we live in a vast country overflowing with ignorant, prejudiced idiots who apparently have nothing else to do all day but spew their bile denouncing people who speak Spanish and debating whether our muslim, marxist, nazi, gun-taking, Constitution-hating commie president has destroyed the country by malicious intent or just felonious incompetence. I was so despondent that I asked my therapist for an anti-depressant, and he told me to just stop reading the comment sections. It worked like a charm!

  14. Annie D.
    September 30, 2015 2:34 pm

    I for one am DYING to hear more about Jim Kramer’s first-hand experience with nasty refugees in his home.

  15. Bluetail
    September 30, 2015 4:24 pm

    Your powerful, eloquent post reminds me of how much we miss your once-daily blog. Good to see that time away has only made your writing more powerful, more eloquent.

  16. Melissa G.
    September 30, 2015 4:46 pm

    PREACH. PREACHY, PREACHY, PREACH, PREACH it sister. How people can look into the eyes of terrified, completely innocent and helpless children and their terrified, helpless parents faces and be so cold, so callous, is something I will never be able to understand. Never ever. Because all I can see is my own child’s eyes and all I can feel is my own desperation and helplessness when I imagine us in their shoes.

    Reading the comments section is always a very honest reflection of first world humanity and it doesn’t seem to contain much humility, empathy, or goodness. So disappointing.

  17. Don Orkoskey
    September 30, 2015 5:09 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this because you’re correct this isn’t a left right political argument (or at least it shouldn’t be). We’re all the children and grandchildren of immigrants and congratulations to those of us who feel so removed from the conditions that lead our grandparents, great or otherwise, (or parents in some cases) to abandon all they knew to come here that they’ve never even had to hear what their family was fleeing.

    For me and my family the story is the same no matter which side I’m talking about – they were nearly all newly freed serfs who found themselves no longer property and expected to pay rent for the land they were obliged to work for generations.

    My ‘hunky’ family members left because they were not the first born, they expected to be conscripted to fight for the Hungarian Army simply because the crown prince was nearing his 35th birthday and had not fought a war yet to prove his worth. They expected they’d be conscripted and sent to fight to prove HIS manhood. They walked from the Carpathian mountains to the coast of Germany to get on a boat with nothing more than the directions to come to western PA to work in the coal mines.

    Not only has Pittsburgh welcomed wave after wave of immigrants that have built this city but we’ve held out our hands to folks from New Orleans after Katrina, to Somali and Sudanese refugees in the past 20 years. Many of those folks have worked with groups like the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities to become integrated into our communities.

    They’re not jihadis they’re clerks at Giant Eagle and I for one would welcome a few more checkouts being open so thank you for writing this!!!

  18. redpenmama
    September 30, 2015 9:56 pm

    God bless you for writing this.
    Now, I’m going to go read the comments (on this post).

  19. Maria
    October 1, 2015 10:10 am

    I’m making it my personal mission to make this go viral! Posted it as a comment on a Trump immigration article because this says it better than I ever could! How has empathy, the ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes disappeared so completely from thus country? This issue is only one example of many.

  20. Jill
    October 1, 2015 11:43 am

    This was beautifully written. I’m not a regular reader, but saw this linked from the mayor’s Twitter feed. I hope you get a million hits on this post. Thank you for saying ALL of this.

  21. Sam
    October 1, 2015 1:40 pm

    I found this from the Mayor’s feed as well. Very much agreed. I was shocked and disgusted by the level of hatred, misinformation and fear being attached to this crisis. I’m glad to have found that others are as well. I think islamophonia is the red scare of our time.

  22. Erin
    October 1, 2015 2:47 pm

    Pittsburghers are the friendliest people around – until it comes to foreigners. I have always thought this and have seen plenty of evidence. It’s embarrassing. These comments are horrible.

    Everyone should read Humans of New York. Really gives these refugees a face and makes them HUMAN. They’re not some unwashed mass traipsing across Europe. These are moms and dads and kids.

  23. Maria Lupinacci
    October 1, 2015 5:22 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    I have to add that I love when I hear people complain that their grandparents or great grandparents came to this country “legally” not realizing that the quota system didn’t really come in to play until the 1920’s. Prior to that, if you were from Europe and could make your way here, that’s pretty much all it took.

  24. Melinda
    October 1, 2015 7:22 pm

    Thank you for putting into words so perfectly what myself and many others have been thinking.

    And a thank you to the nice humans who have commented as well, reading these comments has been uplifting. Positive words and kindness goes a very long way, I hope the not-so-nice humans come to understand this as well.

  25. Jennifer Rossi
    October 3, 2015 11:41 pm

    Nailed it!

  26. don
    October 4, 2015 11:35 am

    If you really think these invaders, even the children, will create more good will and value than terrorism and cost look at what has happened in France and the UK over the past 1-2 decades. The muslims who invaded there have grown up, started to capture cities via birth rates and threats/violence and placed unbelievable social costs on the tax paying citizens.

    What makes anyone think it will be better here? Perhaps those that do should visit Dearborn Michigan or some of the outer areas of the twin cities in MN. Muslims, from the middle east and Africa, have done anything but created a positive atmosphere for other religions and citizens. Maybe some have become doctors? I bet lots more have abused welfare and other social services in those states. I also bet the ratio between the two points is in the area of 99 to 1 favoring the parasites.

    If you value your freedoms you will do anything but welcome the expansion of muslims in America. If you don’t and seek to open your arms get ready to turn the other cheek early in the game and convert to islam or die later.

    • Sam
      October 4, 2015 7:23 pm

      Don: I can’t comment on what is going on in other countries and I don’t , but regarding your comments about Dearborn and MN I hear nothing coming out of those areas about Islamic suppression or hostility. In fact I quote Nancy Kaffer here:

      “With five minutes and a search engine, it’s easy to disprove the radical right’s pet theory about Dearborn—or any of the cities and neighborhoods featured on the no-go list. Yet the creeping-sharia myth is so pervasive that it’s been repeated by folks like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a 2016 presidential hopeful, and by failed 2010 Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, a Tea Party adherent, among numerous other Republicans. Fox News was forced to apologize after a commentator labeled parts of Europe no-go zones.”

      Read it all at if you’re interested.

      Instead what I read about are “native born” people shooting up theaters and schools, attacking children, and – guess what – living parasitically off the system. Muslims aren’t the problem, extremists are. And that includes extremists of any stripe, be it Muslim, Christian, Aryan, go on down the list.

    • MattDC
      October 5, 2015 9:38 am

      What a coincidence. My own immigrant forebears, Irish Catholic “parasites,” also “captured cities via birthrates”, like Boston and Philadelphia (we would have conquered Pittsburgh too, if all those Eastern Europeans hadn’t arrived and adopted our invasion tactics.) I have done some research on the situation in France and the UK, and offer it here for your enlightenment.

  27. don
    October 7, 2015 4:02 pm

    I suggest that maybe you guys have not visited Dearborn or the areas of MN I cited. I used to live in MI. I assure you the muslims in Dearbon are not very inclusive and, as their numbers continue to escalate, the animosity toward and rejection of all “non believers” does so as well. The same holds true for MN and the Somali invaders. I suggest you walk a mile in the shoes of the residents of those areas and then comment.

    With respect to Europe, I used to run a global business. Had offices in the US, France, Germany, Japan and manufacturing on 4 continents. I’ve been face to face with many cultures from both a business as well as a social perspective. My impressions of muslims are that they are somewhat compliant and almost agreeable when in the minority. Especially if the minority percentage is quite low. That all seems to change when the demographics move in a direction where their percentage moves out of the single digits.

    I understand America and Pittsburgh were formed via immigration. However, I suggest there’s a vast difference between immigrants who opt to become inclusive vs those who are determined to stay completely within their original culture and then demand others bend to their ways. This is what America will get if the president and his administration continue their immigration policy. Considering the history of obama and his chief adviser jarret this policy and their idea of fundamental change is not a surprise. If that seems unbelievable I also suggest you visit the UK, France, Denmark, etc. An uncomfortable number of cities in those Nations are experiencing just what I believe will happen here.

    The BLS/census organizations have documented that around 90% of all muslim immigrants are participating in some form of welfare. I think our social programs/services are already at the highest cost in history. Why does it make sense to add this additional burden to the American tax payer?

    I’m not a celebrity who writes a column. I am a citizen who has come face to face with this issue over 40 years as well as a tax payer. On both accounts I am not in favor of muslim immigration and likely will never be.

    • Sam
      October 7, 2015 9:39 pm

      Don I appreciate your comments and personal insights, especially because you don’t sound like someone who is just spouting off what they hear other people say.

      The whole discussion of “inclusion” and “assimilation” is vague I think. What exactly do we mean by these ideas? Learning the language? Blending in with the culture while eliminating your own cultural distinctiveness? Living in an integrated neighborhood? Paying taxes and earning a living? None of these are bad of course. I think they’re all things we strive for in our society. And they all happen on different levels. But I don’t know what we are expecting refugees/immigrants to do when we tell them to “assimilate” our culture.

      I wonder if we would be willing to assimilate into a very different culture if we were forced to do so out of necessity or warfare, especially to the degree that we may expect immigrants to do so here.

      Regarding how Muslims act when in the minority rather than the majority in a community, it stands to reason that there’s less push to fully integrate or become more open to others when in the majority. I think the “accomodation” discussion would come in to play here too. When you’re in the majority in a community, you expect others to follow your local norms rather than the other way around. Not an excuse for bad behavior, it may just be how society works. Inclusivity and acceptance has to work both ways. And while the Arab countries were pretty inclusive at one point in time, that’s much much less so now for various reasons.

  28. don
    October 8, 2015 1:42 pm

    I’ll close my comments with this. I wonder if any of the nice humans who wrote supporting the idea of increasing the number of muslims in Pittsburgh have ever been in a situation where the muslim population exceeded 10% of the total for that area? If so, I feel their encouraging remarks hold water. If not, they are commenting without any first hand information and likely just spouting concepts this administration and the liberal media have fed them.

    I’ve been there and done that I can assure you the end result is not pretty. It is dangerous, expensive, dirty and unwelcoming. When it happens to Pittsburgh all the nice humans will understand and regret their support. But it will be too late to hope to alter the fundamental change that occurred. You know the one brought to America by the fellow your state helped elect.

    • Annie D.
      October 12, 2015 11:03 am

      “I wonder if any of the nice humans who wrote supporting the idea of increasing the number of muslims in Pittsburgh have ever been in a situation where the muslim population exceeded 10% of the total for that area?”

      Yes. I have. It affected my life in absolutely no way whatsoever except that I had access to a lot of delicious food. It was not more dangerous, expensive, dirty or unwelcoming than anywhere else I’ve lived in any way. To assume that it would be is an utterly unqualifiable statement.

      Islam is so extraordinarily misunderstood, among Christians of all people (they’re quite similar religions in a lot of ways), that it boggles my mind.

  29. Janelle
    October 11, 2015 9:54 am

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I don’t have to anymore–I don’t understand how, when, and why helping people became a bad thing.