Fear can make us stand in way of our own freedom

We all know the phrase “Peace On Earth, Goodwill to All.” OK, I modified it slightly. So why is it so hard to remember when we are talking about people from all over the world?

Ever since the shootings in San Bernardino it seems that much of the country has lost its peace on earth and goodwill to all. And then Donald Trump spouts off not once, but twice, in a week with statements that defy this thought.

First, he wants to ban all Muslims from entering this country. Then he compares this idea to our detaining the Japanese during World War II. Apparently he has many who agree with him, as evidenced by the positive reaction of the crowd that was listening to his speech.

I am not so sure we get to choose to whom we express peace on earth and goodwill to all.

I’m not suggesting we allow every individual who wants to enter this country an open pass. That would be foolish. We can and do have in place criteria that disallow many individuals who have criminal records in their home countries from coming to the United States. We would not willingly allow people who openly voice a desire to see our way of life destroyed to enter, either.

But the majority of people who want to come here from the Middle East do not fall into the above categories. They go through a process of background checks that can last up to two years. Much is made of the idea that Middle Eastern countries are doing little to nothing to take in these people. Saudi Arabia is said to have an enormous tent city ready for … someone. But these people want to come to our country.

How many of you are of Irish heritage? I imagine a good number are saying, gladly, they are of Irish heritage. Do you know what it was like when people from Ireland first came to the United States? The Irish were called dirty. People complained they were clannish and did not interact with people who were already here. Many declared the Irish to be criminals and drunkards.

We fear what will happen if we allow the people from the Middle East into this country.

We have a right to be concerned. It is possible someone will get through the process who is intent on doing harm here. Is that a good enough reason to keep all Muslims out?

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All. What does that mean? Is it just a nice saying we hear Linus say in the Charlie Brown Christmas special? Or does it have real meaning? Only the people of the United States have the ability to decide. And I fear we will decide to throw that ideal out in order to feel more secure.

A frequent phrase I hear is that “freedom is not free.” This is often used to talk about the gallant efforts of our military men and women in current and past wars. And I see that phrase as having a deeper meaning. It means we, the people of the United States, have an obligation to take risks in order to keep ourselves and others free. Did our Revolutionary War forebears not take up these risks by fighting the British? I do not believe what we are being asked to do is even remotely as risky.

This means we must take real risks. Not risks that are remote and are done by others on our behalf, but risks that may mean the risk of our own lives and health. Risks in the name of freedom for all people, even those we do not completely understand and, consequently, we do not trust.

We live in a world with risks many who came before us could not have imagined. The large oceans that kept us somewhat safe are no longer so large. People are not afraid to come here to try to disrupt, if not destroy, our way of life. And please remember most acts of terrorism in this country have been committed by people from this country. We can only do so many things to keep ourselves safe, if we want to remain a free people. But we risk destroying our way of life from within, if we become so insular we forget we are a people of peace and goodwill.

Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. You may share your comments at jem75@sbcglobal.net