If Donald Trump has his way, America’s Muslims may be required to register in a national database, carry special IDs and have their mosques subject to intrusive monitoring, maybe even closing, by the federal government.
I’ll register. Must I wear a yellow crescent, too?
And in cooperation with fellow-traveler Ben Carson, maybe Trump, Cruz, Bush, et al, can pass an amendment overriding that pesky part of Article VI of the Constitution that says there should be no religious test for president.
Should I wear a yellow crescent?
In the privileged, racist world inhabited by many Republican contenders, only Christian refugees need apply.
In the privileged world inhabited by most Republican contenders (including those whose families came from Cuba on privileged refugee status without regard to whether they were spies planted by Fidel Castro), 10,000 potential Syrian refugees, whose processing takes 18 to 24 months, are an existential threat to America.
In such a privileged world, John Kasich wants to create a new government agency that would push Judeo-Christian values around the world – particularly in China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.
In such a privileged world, New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie feels free to deny refugee status to 5-year-old orphans.
In such a privileged world, pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson feels free to compare Syrian refugees to mad dogs.
Witness that that target, that threat, Trump wants to paint on some Americans – the yellow crescent – I’ll wear proudly.
And, in such a privileged world, Gov. Maggie Hassan, Democrat from New Hampshire and candidate for the U.S. Senate, feels free to join forces with Republicans to deny Syrian refugees refuge on our shores.
Maggie “believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people.” Say it ain’t so, Maggie.
Maggie should know better. A longtime resident of Exeter, where her husband, Tom, was principal of Phillips Exeter Academy, she lived in a community that embraced the principle of “youth from every corner,” where no student was excluded by race, religion or nation origin. A school where until the 1950s teachers who were Catholic, Jewish or any other non-Protestant religion could not be faculty members, now includes students and faculty from every faith tradition – and is thriving because of it. Indeed, for several years PEA offered scholarships to young people from Seeds of Peace in order to better serve youth from every quarter.
A few years ago, when the academy’s Phillips Church was renovated, the academy made sure that Muslims, Jews, Hindus and others were accommodated in a structure that was originally built to serve only white, Christian, male youth of privilege.
Maggie turned her back on those examples of inclusion and equity when she joined forces with 30 Republican governors and other GOP leaders in an attempt to have America turn its back on a crisis it is in part responsible for.
In such a privileged world, few remember that in 1938 67 percent of Americans said our nation should not accept Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were denied entry to America, including the family of Anne Frank.
In such a privileged world not enough Americans remember – or care – that during World War II 120,000 Japanese Americans were registered in a federal database, uprooted from their homes and put into internment camps.
What happened in Beirut and Paris last week was evil and heinous and that Daesh, or ISIS, must be opposed and defeated is beyond dispute. The racism and ignorance that many Americans have embraced as a result of that tragedy is also beyond dispute, is indefensible and dangerous. That we want to slam our Golden Door in the face of “the homeless (and) tempest-tossed” challenges the very foundation of America as a pluralistic, diverse nation.
Let’s examine the process that Maggie wants to halt: Of 785,000 refugees settled in America since 2001, somewhere between three and 12 have been investigated for terror related activities – and most of those activities were directed at non-U.S. targets.
Since 2011, the United Nations and other NGOs have recommended over 23,000 Syrian refugees be considered for admittance to the United States. Of that number, about 7,000 were selected for interviews. From that pool, 1,854 Syrians came to America – of which over 50 percent were women and children – fewer than 10 percent.
Further, no one even gets an interview if they do not have original documents that meet federal and security guidelines – no false passports, no laissez-passer accepted. Between the controversial and extremely intrusive Controlled Application Review and Resolution Process, or CARRP, and all the other investigatory protocols applied during the application process the risk of failure is extremely small.
On the other hand, there are more than 20,000,000 people from more than 30 countries who qualify to come to America under our current visa-waiver program without pre-screening. That means, for example, that if Daesh wants to infiltrate someone into the United States, it would be far more effective, and immediate, to send an operative from France or Belgium pretending to be a tourist than it would be to take the chance that their refugee “plant” would survive CARRP.
Indeed, seven of the Paris terrorists qualified for travel to America without a visa – no waiting period. Indeed, any malevolently inclined tourist arriving at New York City’s JFK Airport could hop in a taxi, go to one of the many unregulated weekend gun shows on Long Island, and buy all the weaponry needed for any nefarious purpose.
I don’t care if these folks really believe what they’re saying and doing or if such rhetoric is just a craven attempt to manipulate a susceptible and fearful populace for personal gain.
I don’t care why.
However couched, however framed, this shameful demagoguery is un-American; it’s dangerous, it’s counter-productive and it needs to stop.
I cannot agree more with President Obama, who said on Nov. 17, “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate.” This debate, this rush to put boots on the ground in Mesopotamia on one hand while denying refugee status to the weak, needy and dispossessed on the other, plays directly into Daesh’s hand.
Americans are good at demonizing the Other. Trump’s call for yellow crescents is the best way to alienate a loyal American community – to put America at risk at a time when what we need most is solidarity and steadfastness in confronting the evil threat posed by Daesh and its affiliates – is an act of ignorance that denies both the promise of America and jeopardizes its future.
Today I’ll wear my yellow crescent – “what of it, it won’t kill me, will it?” Donald, Chris, Ben, Ted, Jeb and Maggie: You’ve all done your work well. You’ve aligned your pandering, your craven ambitions and your ignorance with the enemy. You are doing the work that haters of America have been trying to do for years – rend the American Muslim community from the public square, alienate and isolate them, brand them as the Other, and make the weak among them susceptible to the entreaties of the radicals and haters.
Bravo. You should be proud.
Here in New Hampshire, at a time when Islamophobic incidents are on the rise across America, where anti-Islam rhetoric is inflaming passions in nearly every state, Maggie’s craven alignment with the forces of exclusion and division must be rejected.
Politicians pandering for profit has to be one of the most shameful of acts – particularly when it appears to be pre-emptive. It’s a hell of a way to run a senatorial campaign; If New Hampshire Democrats and progressives cannot trust the governor to act justly on matters of conscience, what can they expect if she’s elected?
Maggie’s betrayal of her base is a shock for many – and she’s being called upon to heal the rift. While there’ll be many who’ll vote for Hassan because of the alternative, there may be many who believe that the enemy you already know is preferable to the enemy you don’t.
Beware, you who dare to rend our precious fabric, what you ask for.
This column appeared originally in the Concord Monitor.