During the holidays, we are often reminded of the struggles and courage of the pilgrims who came to our shores nearly 400 years ago. We remember the sacrifices and the perseverance they made by leaving their homeland for the chance at a better life and the freedom to practice their faith as they wished. We also recognize the graciousness of giving of indigenous people living here. This story is part of the very fabric of our country. And yet, as I observe the rhetoric that has emanated from certain politicians concerning Syrian refugees, I wonder if these “public servants” have forgotten the meaning of Thanksgiving in our nation’s history?
First we have our own lawmakers, Rep. Ryan Zinke, Sen. Steve Daines, a group of GOP legislators from Montana and our want-to-be governor Greg Gianforte, as well as governors around the nation declaring that we cannot allow a few thousand of these people in our country or state. Aside from the fact that these people have any say in this matter, refugees are a federal issue established by the Refugee Act of 1980. Now, these men, women, and children are to be feared because they may be terrorists. According to State Department data, 67 percent of those referred by the UN are women and children under the age of 12. So we are to be afraid of children? Of course, if one were to watch Fox News you would certainly get that impression.
Then, we have the politicians that wish to be president. Every GOP candidate for president is reciting the same refrain. Be afraid, be very afraid! The Syrian refugees are part of ISIS, they will wreak havoc upon us. And of course we have one candidate who wants to prevent these people from seeking asylum in our country and also require all Muslims to carry IDs to identify themselves!
Peddling fear, that’s what these politicians are counting on. These comments are not only reprehensible, but they have caused a new round of stereotyping, hatred, and violence throughout this country. They do not reflect the lessons learned from the Indians and the pilgrims of the first Thanksgiving. And further, this anti-refugee rhetoric actually helps ISIS by doing work for them. See, they say, we told you these Americans were evil! If Americans truly want to address terrorism, let’s start by discussing the 376 mass shooting deaths this year. Each event resulted in at least four American deaths. Compare that with 71 killed by acts of terrorism in the past 10 years. So being a little more understanding to human beings from the Middle East is not only a moral issue, it is a tactical and political one as well. By demonstrating prejudice and discrimination towards people who may be of a different faith, we as Americans provide recruitment material for our enemies. American citizens who spout this hatred have forgotten their American heritage of tolerance and giving – the fundamental principles of the season – and are hurting us all by aiding our enemies.
David R. James lives in Eureka
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