Show us your crucifix, then you can come in.

If this weren’t all coming down along party lines, I could accept the fact that some governors want to accept Syrian refugees and others don’t. But that’s not the way it’s happening: the Democrats (all but one) say yes and the Republicans say no. Lock step. Like always.

The irony here is that the governors can squawk all they want—they still can’t close their borders. The victims, then, will be the refugees themselves who, although they are allowed to reside in a given state, will face hostility, alienation, and probably—if the last few days are any indication—harassment and abuse. And it will be, if not government sanctioned, at least government winked at. (Let’s go shoot up a mosque—it’s the American way.)

In 1927 two anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were put to death for the murder of a guard and a paymaster during a robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, seven years earlier. In truth they didn’t rob anybody. They couldn’t have been there. But they were foreigners with disturbing political views, and as such were easy marks. Make no mistake—they were radicals, part of a larger group that had been implicated in several criminal acts, but the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti remains a prime example of ethnic prejudice in this country. There are other:

The 1919 deportation of “Reds.”

The trial of the “Scottsboro Boys.”

The internment of Americans with Japanese heritage in the forties.

Eisenhower’s insensitively named “Operation Wetback.”

America has a long and rich history of abusing “the different.” But we also have a long and rich history of accepting them. The key word in the term Syrian refugees should not be Syrian, and we should realize that. So should some of the Republican presidential candidates:

  • Chris Christie would keep out all Syrians, even orphan children. (He is good at blocking bridges.)
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a former presidential candidate will utilize all lawful means to block Syrian refugees from resettling in the state.
  • John Kasich, who often sounds like the one voice of reason on the debate stage,wrote to the president on Monday asking him to stop sending Syrians to Ohio…as if President Obama owns a fleet of Fed-Ex trucks that he’s loading behind the White House.
  • And in what is far and away the most astonishingly stupid solution yet, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz want to allow only Christian Syrians into the United States because they couldn’t possibly pose a threat. I guess all that Constitutional stuff about religion didn’t take, or they never had a history course, or they forgot that Timothy McVeigh was raised a Catholic.

These politicians represent an ignorant nativism that serves as ongoing recruiting posters for ISIS. They pander to the worst in all of us and they seize upon our fears at a time when we’re most vulnerable. I understand the worry—nobody could view last weekend’s events in Paris and feel the least bit secure, but can we at least make a distinction between refugees and psychopaths? If we can use that as a starting point, maybe we can understand that we have less to fear from Syrian orphans than we do from our home-grown terrorists like McVeigh, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, James Holmes, Dylann Roof, the Baltimore snipers (Muhammad and Malvo) and a whole catalog of others.

You want to stop ISIS? You cut their legs out from under them by giving its adherents less fuel for their hatred, not more.

 

 

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