Turning Our Backs on American Values and Succumbing to Fear

We all know the story.  Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities in Syria have created a power vacuum in the Middle East, one filled by the ruthless tendencies of ISIS, prompting more than four million people to flee in search of a better, and safer, future.  This is what spurred President Obama to prepare to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, and even more in 2017.  But when the dust settled, more than half of our nation’s governors, all but one of them Republican, voiced dissent, raising concerns over possible terrorism threats and pledging to block refugees from entering their respective states.  Regardless of the constitutionality of states rejecting federal orders, this reveals a distressing, if not hypocritical, view from many of our nation’s leaders.

Syrian refugees are looking for hope, but they may not find it in the U.S. if our politicians block their passage.

It seems as though the values on which we pride ourselves have disappeared, much like the emails of Hillary Clinton.  In the heart of New York harbor stands the Statue of Liberty, a beacon of hope and opportunity for everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.  And inscribed on this American symbol are the words: “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-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  This statue and these words are old, but not obsolete.  And if we truly believe that “in God we trust,” what’s more Christian then embracing strangers, housing the homeless, and recognizing the dignity in everyone?  How can we embrace family values but then spurn thousands of suffering families on our doorstep?  And finally, and perhaps most convincing, it is fitting to realize that in the midst of Thanksgiving, the first Americans were refugees, people who too were fleeing persecution back home.  So not only do we have a moral obligation to help those in need, but also we have a duty to live up to what we proclaim to stand for.

While American values are handholds, something that we can cling to in distress and confusion, they are also tightropes, as they can plunge us into difficult, or even dangerous, situations.  But in the case of the Syrian refugee crisis, there’s no reason why we cannot uphold our values while also ensuring our security. This is not to say that there isn’t a perfectly valid concern over a potential spike in terrorism following these refugees emigrating, but the bigger threat already lies at home.  In the post-9/11 years, of all the acts committed in the name of extremist Islam, half were at the hands of U.S. citizens, with another quarter at the hands of naturalized citizens, and none at the hands of refugees.  And regarding the recent Paris attacks, only one of the at least ten perpetrators is suspected of being a refugee, and his refugee passport is thought to have been stolen from an actual refugee.  These refugees are fleeing from terrorism itself, so instead of being promoters of it, they too are victims of the fear that we felt after 9/11 and that France experienced just a few weeks ago.

Jeb Bush only wants to accept Christian refugees, but whatever happened to the American value of tolerance for all?

Jeb Bush only wants to accept Christian refugees, but whatever happened to the American value of tolerance for all?

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, for some refugees at least, as presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently proclaimed that the U.S. should open its arms to Christian refugees.  But associating all Christians with virtue and all Muslims with vice is a simplistic view to say the least.  First, Christians aren’t immune to violence or even terrorism, as history proves; from the KKK to Central African militia groups, people of all faiths can succumb to our basest forms.  Second, the vast majority of Muslims don’t fit the description of terrorists and non-Muslims commit the majority of terrorism related crimes.  The New York Times writes, “Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.”  We must look inward before we lay too much blame on foreigners or different faiths for the deaths of Americans.

The last issue to address is that of the refugee screening process, with many calling for thorough background checks to prevent terrorist attacks.  This demand is a completely valid one, but the U.S. is already following through with this.  The U.S. only receives refugees referred to it by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is why 67 percent of refugees already admitted to the U.S. from the Middle East are children under the age of twelve and women.  But we must realize that the only way to prevent more terrorism in the future is to open our doors to refugees now.  If we allow hundreds of thousands of refugees to languish in deplorable conditions across Europe and the Middle East, then we are providing ISIS with fertile recruiting ground.

Let’s face it – terrorism will strike the U.S.  It has in the past and it will in the future.  ISIS may disguise terrorists as refugees, but it could also utilize homegrown terrorists, launch a cyber war, or hack U.S. planes internationally, among a host of other plots.  If we deny these refugees, then we give into fear – and that’s exactly what ISIS hopes to accomplish.  We cannot allow ISIS to sow disunity in the Western world and pit it against the Muslim community.  ISIS cannot be beaten solely through military means; we must crush them ideologically as well by proving that tolerance and justice trump fanaticism and inhumanity.  So let’s embrace American values, and embrace the refugees.

 

”Sources”

Foley, Elise. “Here’s A Running Tally Of The Governors Who Want To Reject Syrian Refugees.” Huffington Post. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/republican-governors-syrian-refugees_564a0ef9e4b06037734a0209>.

“Jeb Bush August 2015″ by Michael Vadon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jeb_Bush_August_2015.jpg#/media/File:Jeb_Bush_August_2015.jpg

PeÇanha, Sergio, and K. K. Rebecca. “The Origins of Jihadist-Inspired Attackers in the U.S.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/25/us/us-muslim-extremists-terrorist-attacks.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0>.

Shane, Scott. “Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 June 2015. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/tally-of-attacks-in-us-challenges-perceptions-of-top-terror-threat.html>.

Smith, Candance. “Jeb Bush Says US Should Allow Syrian Refugees Who Can Prove They’re Christian.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 17 Nov. 2015. Web.

“Syrian refugees in lebanon” by Voice of America News: Margaret Besheer reports from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli; “Syrian Refugees Seek Out Smugglers”. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWvHr-0BXhc&feature=plcp. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syrian_refugees_in_lebanon.jpg#/media/File:Syrian_refugees_in_lebanon.jpg

Tharoor, Ishaan. “Were Syrian Refugees Involved in the Paris Attacks? What We Know and Don’t Know.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/11/17/were-syrian-refugees-involved-in-the-paris-attacks-what-we-know-and-dont-know/>.

Ugene Kiely, Robert Farley, and D’Angelo Gore. “Facts about the Syrian Refugees.” FactCheckorg. N.p., 23 Nov. 2015. Web. <http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/facts-about-the-syrian-refugees/>.

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