What can you say about our country when a late night comedian addresses the horror in Paris movingly and tastefully, yet candidates for the Republican nomination are falling over themselves to see who can be the biggest jerk? On Monday night’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert skipped his opening monologue while Jon Batiste and Stay Human played La Marseillaise. Colbert then leavened his opening comments with an appropriate level of levity.
While compassion, restraint and dignity is the correct response to an attack on one of our oldest allies, the GOP candidates used the occasion as their latest partisan salvo, featuring yet another attack on foreigners hoping to enter the country. Their justification – if you can even call it that – is that the Paris attack was by refugees from Syria. That is not true – there is confusing evidence as to whether one of the attackers came from Syria, but the rest were from Europe.
But the right in this country does not need facts to support their policies, and a provocative sound-bite is always better than a reasoned argument. Their idea of a policy – and a popular attack against Democrats – is that we should be calling these fanatics “radical Islamic terrorists.” How that is going to alter the facts on the ground doesn’t matter. It is easier than coming up with a coherent policy alternative.
Now there is a movement to bar Syrian refugees who are Muslim from entering the country while admitting those who are Christian. Even so-called moderates in the GOP field share this view, although calling any of them a moderate shows how far we have moved in this country from standard political definitions. Jeb Bush favors this approach. John Kasich thinks we need a new federal agency to promote Judeo-Christian values rather than running from them – something you may not have known was going on.
Barring people from entering our country because of their religion is not, of course, what we are about as a nation. It is particularly appalling as we enter Thanksgiving week, a holiday commemorating our past of refugees fleeing religious persecution. While the Pilgrims just had to step off a ship, entering the United States as a refugee now is a difficult and lengthy process. While the know-nothing blowhard Donald Trump is talking about 250,000 Syrian refuges, the reality – again that distasteful word – is that less than one per cent of that number have arrived.
Even if we are willing to ignore the words on the Statue of Liberty and add another chapter to a disgraceful past in which we incarcerated those of Japanese ancestry and turned away a ship of Jews fleeing Hitler’s persecution, let’s contemplate the practical effects of such a policy.
For starters, there is the rather obvious issue of how one determines someone is a Christian and not a Muslim. Even if there were a sensible way of doing this, it is safe to assume that a jihadist seeking to enter the country can successfully pass whatever test is presented.
The most troublesome – if not disastrous – aspect of a policy discriminating between Christians and Muslims is that it furthers the goals of the jihadists to demonstrate that theirs is a war between Muslims and the “crusaders.” Is there a better way to inflame young Muslims in this country, or to serve as a jihadist recruiting tool both here and abroad, than to have a national policy incorporating this bigotry?
The sad group of GOP candidates has now demonstrated – if there had been any doubt – that there is not a leader among them willing to assert American values that may be unpopular to some. It is laughable that they talk about being tough – in contrast to the weak Obama – but now are afraid to admit three-year old orphans who were born to Muslim parents and are now fleeing persecution or death.