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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

Smart Bombs: Fear of refugees is wretched

Let’s pause the panic and reflect on the past.

From an Oct. 17 Economist article: “For much of its history, America has been generous to refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. After the second world war the country took in more than 650,000 displaced Europeans. After the fall of Saigon in 1975 it welcomed hundreds of thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees. Since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980 America has taken in another 3 million refugees, more than any other country.”

Fear is eroding a proud heritage because a fake Syrian passport was found after the Paris attacks. Note to terrorists: If you planted it to scare Americans and turn public opinion against the victims of your inhumanity, it worked.

The next time someone suggests we’re a Christian nation, just remember this wretched moment. Please, somebody make the spiritual argument for turning away a small fraction of the men, women and children who have been raped, tortured and bombed out of their homeland.

In an unconscionable vote, craven politicians in the U.S. House voted to suspend the long, involved process that would permit up to 10,000 Syrians to enter the United States. Entering the country as a refugee is the most difficult path available, but many Americans believe it’s the one terrorists will take. There is scant history of this being true.

“A rabid dog running around your neighborhood” is how Ben Carson characterized some Syrian refugees. He’s one of the GOP presidential front-runners and a favorite among Christian conservatives. The other front-runner, Donald Trump, is talking about a database of Muslim Americans for better tracking. Might have to shut down some mosques, too.

Americans have opposed taking in refugees throughout history, but we’ve done so anyway, because our leaders consulted their souls, not the polls. Before World War II, public opinion was solidly against taking in Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and other European countries, even after hearing of events such as Kristallnacht. The fear, abetted by widespread anti-Semitism, was that some of them could be communist infiltrators. Then the Holocaust happened, and we eased up.

It seems as if fear is back in charge, though the president and some governors are doing what they can to withstand it. We appear to be headed down the same path that created an ISIS stronghold.

Not a single person involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks was an Iraqi. We invaded Iraq. Not a single person who attacked Paris has been identified as Syrian. The U.S. House followed up with a refugee bill that ignores the fact that the terrorists identified so far were from Belgium and France.

It’s strange how much power we’re willing to give the government to take knee-jerk actions in an age of distrust. We don’t even expect our representatives to vote on declarations of war. We allow massive government snooping, and a few years later we gripe about it.

But gun control? Background checks? Databases of purchases? Can’t trust the government with that. Our contradictory pursuit of safety is reflected in this reality: If terrorists were to emerge from Trump’s imagined Trojan horse of innocent Syrian refugees, they’d have no problem getting weapons.

I know it’s folly to expect fear to be rational, but this is not how we make America great again. We do that by calming down, clearing our heads and honoring our proud history of humanity.

HAPPY TO HELP. It was awfully humbling huddling at home Tuesday night, hoping a tree wouldn’t pay us a visit. A big pine did fall in our backyard, but safely away from the house.

Also humbling is the generosity of spirit displayed by people who went out of their way to help friends, neighbors and perfect strangers.

“Happy to help,” and they definitely mean it.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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