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Are We Willing to Live Cringing In Fear?

February 8, 2017

Pandering to a perception of a fearful America, our new administration is in effect seeking to ban immigration and travel into the U.S. by Muslims from a host of different countries. This ban will supposedly make America great again.

The world, and life for that matter, is full of dangers. Tens of thousands of Americans are killed annually on our highways yet we don’t stop driving because of it. Planes crash killing hundreds of people at a time but we don’t stop flying. In April 2013 the Boston Marathon was bombed by two brothers of Chechen origin who were long time U.S. residents and citizens. They killed three people and wounded 264 others (plus killing one police officer and wounding several more in a subsequent shootout with the perpetrators.) Nonetheless, that didn’t stop the Boston Marathon from continuing. The race has been run every year since and will be held again in 2017. It’s the reason people adopted the phrase “Boston strong” shortly after the bombings occurred.

So why should we cringe in fear or let ourselves be ruled by the specter of possible terror attacks that, given the world we live in, will surely come in the future? Instead, we must guard against our fears within the framework of our laws and Constitution, the things that are the bulwark of what truly does make America great. We can’t let such threats define who we are as Americans or dictate what our nation becomes from the result of fear.

We also can’t lose sight of the richness immigrants have added to America’s greatness. Just think of Albert Einstein, a German Jew, who came to our shores to escape Nazi tyranny. This was a man whose name personified brilliance for the majority of Americans and who became a citizen of our land. Or Steve Jobs of Apple fame, whose biological father was a Syrian Muslim who fell in love with Jobs’ biological American mother at a university in the U.S. We all know the impact Jobs’ life had in regards to American innovation, which also impacted the rest of the world. And let’s not forget the Khan family that I wrote about in my blog back in August 2016. The Pakistani American lawyer Khizr Khan who spoke so eloquently jat the Democratic National Convention last year. He and his wife introduced us to their son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who gave his life in action while serving in Iraq protecting his fellow American soldiers.

America’s greatness would have been diminished in so many ways without these men and the hundreds of thousands of other men and women like them who have come to our shores. We have truly benefited from the qualities and the contributions they added to the fabric of our society. As Americans we should not, out of fear, close our hearts and minds to the potential such immigrants add to our nation. Instead we need to look at the facts and craft rational policies that secure us against terrorism as well as advance our national interests here at home and around the globe while still protecting the gifts such people bring to us.

Part of this analysis requires understanding the root causes that promote the terrorism we seek to fight. Today one of the primary sources of such threats is ISIS and its adherents. Commentator Barak Mendelsohn has written that ISIS is working to create clear divisions between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds in order to destroy modern society and all that is not Muslim. He adds that, “Unfortunately the xenophobia and Islamophobic declarations of some irresponsible populist leaders… is only aiding ISIS’s cause.” In other words, the rhetoric and actions of such leaders only serve to help radicalize people who might otherwise be our allies against ISIS. For example, today Iraqi forces are locked in a death struggle with ISIS in the northwestern Iraqi city of Mosul. Fighting alongside them are hundreds of U.S. military “advisers” who depend on their Iraqi brothers to both take the battle to ISIS and at the same time provide protective cover to our service men and women. But the administration’s new ban on all Iraqi travel or immigration to the U.S. has so disheartened and enraged the Iraqi nation that its parliament is proposing a counter-law banning all entry of U.S. citizens into Iraq. What do you think such action will do to our joint efforts to destroy ISIS?

Here in the U.S. our country’s counter-terrorism strategy, which has been in effect since 9/11, has by and large been very effective. Our efforts can be tweaked but they don’t need a massive overhaul or drastic changes in our immigration policies. Granted no strategy, however draconian, will ever stop all “lone wolf” attackers, which have been the hallmarks of most terror incidents in the US after 9/11. These lone wolves have for the most part been deranged individuals, some with U.S. military backgrounds, or people with long residences and even U.S. citizenship that have become radicalized.

In that light, we need to remain true to America’s core values as represented by the Statue of Liberty, our Constitution and the rule of law. We need to continue to welcome those who seek to add to American greatness as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Captain Humayun Khan did. We cannot cower in fear just because the flow of such people may occasionally include those who might do us harm. Instead, while we stand true to our values, we all need to do our part in weeding out the bad apples from the great stream of humanity integrating into our communities.

From its early beginnings, the United States has refused to live in fear. Let’s demand the new administration carries on that American spirit.