Like most Americans, I long for increased bipartisanship in national governance. We had that briefly following Sept. 11, 2001. It did not last long. Unfortunately, it seems this nation’s elected leaders can unite only during a state of fear.
Once again such a state has brought bipartisanship to the hallowed halls of Congress along with a siege mentality. With that mentality we finally find bipartisanship, with a significant number of Democrats joining Republicans to block the president’s plan to relocate 2,500 Syrian refugees into this country.
Fear is the key factor here, and that is a shame. It is understandable, I grant you. We all want to take proper steps to ensure the safety of the American people here at home.
If it had not been for a lone jihadist sneaking into Paris disguised as a Syrian refugee joining with French jihadists in the attack on Paris, few would have given the president’s plan much thought. After all, the Statue of Liberty represents one of the noblest strengths of the nature of the American people. We are a nation founded by those who sought refuge on our shores.
That spirit of opening our nation to the downtrodden has always led most of the world to view us a great nation that stands for something better than the rest of the world. Therefore, most Americans approved of the president’s plan prior to the Paris attacks. Almost immediately following those attacks, popular opinion shifted drastically.
Now the majority of us want no part of bringing in Syrian refugees to America. The fear is understandable. We do not know if we can prevent jihadists posing as refugees from entering our shores. Nevertheless, it is a shame for a number of reasons.
It is a shame because the biggest losers are the innocent, suffering Syrians who left a war-torn home to find peace and tranquility, to raise their children without fear of a despot and radical jihadists. It is a shame because it is Muslims far more than Westerners who have been killed by radical Muslims.
It is a shame because these very same jihadists want us to hate Muslims. Such hatred fits right into their propaganda scheme. The stirring up of hatred here encourages the recruitment of home-grown terrorists.
It is a shame because opening our arms to afflicted Muslim refugees would lay bare the lies about Americans that the jihadists spread to recruit terrorists here in our land.
It is a shame because it goes against our Christian nature.
It is a shame because when we react out of fear, the terrorists win.
I wholly comprehend the fears of my fellow Americans who balk at bringing these poor souls into our land. I acknowledge it is extremely difficult for me to welcome Syrian refugees, because I know we cannot guarantee no jihadist will slip through the cracks. The desire to protect my homeland is so great that I find it almost impossible to suggest we let these refugees in.
But it is my Christian values that must trump my fears. I am reminded of FDR, who said he was a Christian, an American and a Democrat in that order. If I place my fear over the tenets of Jesus, I personally lose. If the American people put fear above doing the morally right thing, we all lose. If we ignore what America stands for, we make it a lesser nation than it is.
Gov. Mike Pence declared that a Syrian family destined for Indiana would not be allowed to enter our state. Carlen Miller, executive director of Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis, said her role “is to create a welcoming environment … that gives a safe haven to refugees. That we can’t be because our state is not welcoming all is really painful.”
Since this was a refugee family that had been waiting in Jordan since before ISIS began its fight in Syria, the threat they imposed seems very slight. I don’t know how strong our vetting process is, but it takes a minimum of 18 months and usually much longer. Homeland Security recently put another check into place specifically for Syrian refugees.
Currently about half of all refugees are rejected, according to spokespeople for that agency.
I doubt we could ever develop a fail-safe method to exclude potential outside terrorists here. I do know that we have as much to fear from home-grown terrorists as we do from smuggled-in jihadists.
All I ask of the American people is to put politics aside and consider the whole picture without fear. We have a Christian duty, which must be carefully balanced with our need for internal security. Let’s show bipartisanship in finding a solution that allows us to maximize both.
Michael Adkins is the former chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.
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