Fear itself

I’d seen it right along, and plenty of other people have commented on it before me, but I don’t think it really sunk in until just this past week, with all the hand-wringing over Syrian refugees:

Republicans are a bunch of cowards.

I’ve never seen so much fear as has been on display the past week from the Republicans (and, I must admit, way too many Democrats as well). And over what? A bunch of people—largely educated and middle class—who have been forced to flee their homes.

Seriously, the Republicans are straight up afraid of widows and orphans. What’s up with that?

I mean, I totally understand why the Syrians are afraid. They have soldiers and militias fighting house-to-house in their neighborhoods, blasting them with artillery, even using chemical weapons. Not to mention, they have U.S., French, and Russian air forces dropping bombs on those same militias, in the same neighborhoods.

But the Republicans? What are they afraid of? They’re afraid that some “terrorist” will “slip in” amongst the masses of refugees and commit “acts of terror” in the United States.

Well, these hypothetical refugee-terrorists (of which we’ve seen exactly zero so far) will have to get at the back of a pretty long line, behind the non-hypothetical white-supremacist, right-wing, and anti-government militias (not to mention depressed loner high-school boys) who have been committing mass murders in the U.S. in numbers well in excess of those committed by foreign terrorists.

Perhaps worst of all, most of the Republican rhetoric isn’t even aimed at affecting government policy; it’s aimed at preemptively setting up other people to take the blame. “We said you had to give ‘100% assurance’ that they wouldn’t be terrorists before you could let them in, so if even one of them commits a terrorist act it’s all on you!” (They know perfectly well that ‘100% assurance’ is impossible, which is why they demand it. It makes me want to point out that in the U.S. we convict people of capital crimes and execute them, and all we require is assurance “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I expect pointing that out makes me a rose-colored glasses wearing liberal who’s endangering our country.)

Fortunately, some people are man enough not to quake in their boots at the idea of some ordinary families fleeing terror and ending up here, and man enough not to be terrorized at the idea that they might have to take the blame if an evildoer does slip in. I’m thinking of President Obama here, rather too few Democrats in Congress, most of my liberal friends, and (oddly, because I don’t think of myself as especially brave) me.

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5 thoughts on “Fear itself”

  1. I agree with you that much of the “fear the refugees” rhetoric is politically motivated. Republicans are positioning themselves for political gain if terrorism strikes. However, I think you underestimate the problem of radical islam. Actual asylum seeking refugees-not hypothetical ones have committed terrorism on US soil in the past.

  2. All kinds of people have committed violent acts on US soil, and by far the majority have not been Muslims. Even setting aside all the personal acts of violence—angry husbands killing wives, depressed mothers killing children, disgruntled employees killing coworkers, bullied children killing fellow students—and only consider the politically motivated violence, there’s still a lot: anti-abortion activists, anti-government militias, racially-motivated church bombers, etc.

    We have rather extensive screening of potential refugees. In my estimate, people who have passed that screening are probably less likely to be a threat than some random guy on the street.

    I’m generally not afraid of random guys on the street; I’m even less afraid of random refugees.

  3. “All kinds of people have committed violent acts on US soil, and by far the majority have not been Muslims.” -This statement is what is known in a debate as a false equivalence.

    Muslims represent less that 1% of the US population. Crimes, including terrorism are committed in a ratio that is in general proportion to the makeup of the overall US population. What disproportionate level would cause alarm though? Would you view this as a problem if muslims(or any other group) committed terrorists acts in a rate 2x, 3x, or 10x their population in the US. Or would they be required to commit the majority of all terrorist acts before you become concerned?

    Personally, I view religion, and particularly religious zealotry to be a threat to safety and freedom around the world. Religious groups use “God’s word” to reinforce draconian beliefs. Jews persecute Palestinians. Muslims mistreat women. Christians bomb abortion clinics. Even Buddhists in Myanmar mistreat minority Christian and Muslim populations which illustrates that cruelty is not limited to the Abrahamic religions.

  4. Yes, a key part of the reason I feel this way is that I very much expect Muslims, refugees, and muslim refugees all to commit acts of violence at about the same rate as any other group. If there were evidence to the contrary, I’d take it seriously. I don’t know of any.

    Even then, though, to me it seems unamerican to take action against individuals simply because they’re members of a group. Our history of that, from Jim Crow to Japanese internment to McCarthyism, is uniformly bad.

  5. Fair points, I’m in full agreement that we need to be cautious in taking action individuals simply because they are a member of a group. I can, however, identify groups that warrant additional scrutiny and skepticism. Members of the KKK, Irish Republican Army, street gangs, and former criminals for example. An ex-convict, is discriminated against due to his propensity to commit future crimes. While the individual ex-convict may be fully reformed; we as a society have determined that he is a member of a group that has a higher propensity to commit crimes. This requires former sex offenders to register, adds additional scrutiny for legal gun purchases, and even limits employment opportunities.

    According to a February article in US News and World Report: Muslim extremists have caused 33/300 deaths due to terrorism in the US since 9/11.(3005/3305 if including 9/11) If looking at total terrorists attacks on us soil from 1972-2012 muslim extremists have committed 2.5% of all attacks. So, approximately 10% of deaths and 2.5% of attacks were committed by muslim extremists. Seems relatively low, until you consider that muslims represent only .8% of the entire US population.

    At the same time, it is important to understand where muslim extremist hatred towards the west comes from. Americans and other western nations have been meddling in middle east affairs for hundreds of years. Since the discovery of oil, our involvement has been exacerbated. Our policy in the middle east needs to change, but that is a longer term project. Our immediate concern is protecting our homeland and helping countries like Jordan and Egypt to promote more secular government in the middle east.

    In the wake of recent Paris terrorist attacks and Russian commercial airliner bombing, you might want to look more closely at the link between muslim extremism and terrorism. I’d start with the wikipedia page listing terrorist attacks in 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents,_2015

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