GOP hits new low with hysteria against Syrian refugees
To score cheap political points after the terrorist attacks in Paris by the Islamic State, Republicans across the country, from governors to those in Congress to several running for president, are trying to gin up fears against refugees trying to get into America to escape oppression elsewhere.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder started the ball rolling by saying he didn’t want any Syrian refugees in Michigan — a state with a large population from the Middle East in the Detroit suburbs — because he “only wants answers” about the refugees coming here. Yet in an interview on NPR, he couldn’t name any issues or problems with the current screening process of refugees, a process that can take as long as two years.
Sensing a political opportunity, other GOP governors couldn’t race each other to the microphones fast enough to say that they, too, didn’t want refugees. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is also running for president, said he wouldn’t even take a 5-year-old orphan.
Most Democratic governors are saying the opposite, except for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running a competitive race for Senate in 2016. When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence wouldn’t allow a Syrian family to come to Indiana, the family that had fled the Middle East conflict in 2011 was welcomed by Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy. “I told them that people in the United States were generous and good people but sometimes things happen elsewhere that cause people to forget about their generosity,” Malloy said diplomatically at a press conference, according to a CNN story.
The House of Representatives rushed to vote to “pause” the refugee program, a verb that really means “stop” in this case. Even 47 Democrats went along with the vote, although Senate passage is doubtful, and President Obama issued a veto threat. Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck blamed the fearfulness on (what else?) Benghazi. Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks claimed that refugees were just looking for a “paid vacation.”
The Republican presidential candidates keep amping up the rhetoric. Real estate mogul Donald Trump first suggested shutting down mosques in the U.S. Now he’s gone so far as to suggest a registry and ID cards for Muslims. (He’s now backtracking and denies he said such a thing, but of course, there is tape to prove it.) There was no word on whether all Muslims would be forced to wear a yellow crescent on their clothing, as Jews had to wear yellow stars in Germany during World War II. How’d that work out?
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had his own take: Let’s shut down anywhere Muslims meet, not just mosques. “It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — any place where radicals are being inspired,” Rubio told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is sounding more confused as his campaign continues, seemed to think the U.S. already had a universal database of foreigners. “Hopefully, we already have a database on every citizen who is already here,” Carson said Friday, according to a video posted by ABC News. “If we don’t, we’re doing a very poor job.” Of course, this confusion came after his campaign published a map of America that put most of the New England states in Canada and he compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”
After the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people (the death toll is now 130), the media have gone all-terrorism, all-the-time. They arrived en masse to Paris for on-the-spot, after-the-fact reporting, with lots of scared rhetoric. While most of the reporting has been excellent, as has some of the analysis, the usual over-saturation is generating xenophobia. Polling now shows that a majority of Americans are fearful of refugees and favor sending troops back to the Middle East. And some in the media are taking the simple way out, playing into Americans’ fears about the “other.”
Take CNN. CNN anchors Isha Sesay and John Vause harshly questioned a Muslim guest from Paris, Yaser Louati of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, demanding to know why French Muslims hadn’t stopped the terrorists and insisting that all French Muslims “take responsibility” for the attacks, according to an account from Raw Story.
“What is the responsibility within the Muslim community to identify people within their own ranks when it comes to people who are obviously training and preparing to carry out mass murder?” Vause demanded of Louati.
Of course, the Muslim community didn’t know who the terrorists were. “Sir, they were not from our ranks!” Louati exclaimed. “We cannot accept the idea that these people are from us, they are not. They are just byproducts of our societies exporting their wars abroad and expecting no repercussions back home.”
Sesay and Vause continued to insist that the Muslim community has to be “preemptive” about terrorism. That’s like saying any white Christian in America is responsible when a white supremacist like Dylann Storm Roof shoots up a prayer meeting in South Carolina, killing nine, or when Timothy McVeigh kills nearly 200 people in the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building, both citing twisted Christian theology.
Yet a simple tweet from a CNN global affairs correspondent pointing out the futility of throwing aside the American tradition of sheltering refugees got her suspended.
Apparently CNN doesn’t tolerate its reporters having a “partisan bias.” But if the comments from Sesay and Vause weren’t partisan, I don’t know what is.
We have to give CNN some credit, though. The cable network is joining many media outlets that are now detailing the long and tough screening process those applying for refugee status must go through, starting with applying to the United Nations or a U.S. Embassy. If you had any doubts, here’s the headline on the CNN story: “Entering the U.S. as refugees would be the hardest way for would-be terrorists.” The big question is: Will people in the U.S bother to read these details, or will they just listen to the quick fearmongering of politicians?
We’ll give the last word to a U.S. Marine veteran, Sgt. Tayyib Rashid. Here’s what he tweeted to the multi-deferred Trump:
“I’m an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where’s yours?”