There is a vile current of hostility that has existed in America throughout its history. It resulted in the extermination and internment of the indigenous population of this continent. It cradled the capture, enslavement, and oppression of many generations of Africans and their descendants.
Festering American fear and hatred has caught in its gaze, Irish, German, Chinese, and Latino immigrants, Catholics, Jews, Japanese Americans, homosexuals, Communists, and all people of color.
Nowadays it lingers in the last domain where animosity towards others can freely be expressed with relatively little risk of public censure: by voicing fear of Islam and Muslims.
Well-tutored by the codes of political correctness, the haters understand that their enmity must be delivered through ostensibly impersonal vehicles. Their critique is of the doctrine, not its adherents. A nod of respect is made towards America’s tradition of religious tolerance, but simultaneously dismissed by claiming that Islam is not a religion.
No one is a bigot in their own eyes and no ones bigotry gets dislodged simply by pointing out its offensiveness.
Hatred is born out of fear rooted in ignorance.
Let’s, for a moment, indulge the fears of those Americans who currently want to exclude Syrian refugees from entering this country and acknowledge that it is possible that in spite of the careful vetting process which all refugees must pass through, a few individuals with ties to ISIS could use this as a route for entering the U.S. and once here launch a terrorist attack. Even if candidates were further limited by only allowing Christians, it’s conceivable that a member of ISIS could claim to be a Christian. There is as far as I know, no blood test or scanning device that is able to differentiate between Christians and non-Christians.
So, would blocking the entry of all Syrian refugees significantly guard against this risk posed by ISIS?
Although ISIS, with ridiculous ease, was able to dupe many in the West into imagining that the Paris attacks were tied to Syrian refugees — seriously, folks, consider for a few seconds what would motivate someone to take their passport on a suicide mission — we need to remember that ISIS is rooted in the Sunni provinces of Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was previously the Islamic State of Iraq and before that it was al-Qaeda in Iraq.
So, if the U.S. wants to implement a discriminatory refugee policy and pander to fears surrounding the risk of an ISIS attack, then blocking the entry of 10,000 Syrians would definitely be too little, too late.
In the three years prior to 2015, the U.S. has accepted 51,107 Iraqi refugees.
Still, let’s also not lose sight of the fact that ISIS has recruited fighters from many nations and its suicide attacks tend to be carried out by neither Iraqis nor Syrians.
If the U.S. wants to be systematic and comprehensive in formulating its anti-ISIS refugee policy, it will also need to prevent refugees entering this country from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
But that won’t be enough. In ISIS’s ranks there are passport holders from Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine whose citizens can enter this country with a visa.
And then there are ISIS passport holders from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, all of whom can come here without a visa as tourists.
It looks like fortress America doesn’t just need a wall — it can’t even afford the risk of having any entry points.
Would that make America safe?
Not if the Paris attacks serve as a model for an ISIS attack in the U.S.
In such an event we will not be attacked by Frenchmen. Instead, ISIS will reveal its American face.
Does that mean we should now be afraid of an enemy within?
Robert F. Dees, a retired Army officer who describes himself as “an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ,” and who serves as a foreign policy adviser to GOP presidential hopeful, Ben Carson, says “we’ve been infiltrated.” He sees all Muslims inside and outside America — almost a quarter of the world’s population — as potential terrorists.
This is McCarthyism on steroids.
Those who foment these fears are not simply promoting irrational thinking but they are also playing a fundamentally divisive role in American society.
National traumas have healing power when they open opportunities for people to stand together and set aside their differences.
This doesn’t mean finding camaraderie through a shared hatred.
It means having the courage to show that love is more powerful than hate.
When English and French football supporters all sang La Marseillaise in Wembley stadium in London last night, this was more than an act of defiance — a refusal to give in to terrorism.
It was an opportunity for ordinary people to show they care about each other and know that life as precious.