To the editor:
We need to step back from the fear of allowing Syrian refugees into our country.
Consider the following:
First, allowing us to be guided by fear is exactly what the ISIS terrorists intend when they commit horrific atrocities. In the dark days of World War II, President Roosevelt said that we have “nothing to fear but fear itself.” So let’s put what ISIS is doing in proper perspective.
Second, if fear of violent death is the issue, why are not governors demanding serious gun control measures, instead of trying to keep Syrian refugees (including women, the elderly and children) from coming to their states? The fact is that more persons die each year from firearms than died on 9/11 in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, combined.
Third, there is already thorough vetting process in place without needing yet another screening layer. As the Nov. 22 New York Times clearly stated, it takes two years for Syrian refuges to enter the U.S., a 14-step procedure ranging from registration at the United Nations, to interviews with the State Department contractors, review by U.S. Immigration, and extensive interviews by Homeland Security.
Fourth, the fear of foreigners to our shores has a long history dating back to colonial times. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, was concerned at the number of Germans flooding our shores – that English would no longer be the major language spoken! My German-speaking ancestors came to America in the 1700s when Franklin voiced his fear. Praise the Lord that his thinking never prevailed.
In 1855, Protestant Americans formed the Native American Party to purify American politics by trying to keep out Irish Catholics and other immigrants.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, our government forced thousands of patriotic Japanese Americans into concentration camps (called “relocation centers”) out of fear that they would be sympathetic to Japan. And yet, they were among the toughest and bravest soldiers in the U.S. Army who fought the Germans.
As Germany marched into European countries at the start of World War II, there was fear of admitting escaping Jews for fear that Nazi spies and saboteurs would be among them. So they were turned away. Prejudice toward Jews was also a motivation for not allowing them entrance to our shores.
We have too easily forgotten that we are a nation of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants. This brings to mind the story that was overheard at a grocery store.
A patriotic upstanding citizen was waiting in line behind a woman speaking on her cellphone in a foreign language. After the woman hung up, he said: “I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you are in America now. You need to speak English.”
She replied, “Excuse me?”
He replied very slowly: “If you want to speak Arabic, go back to Syria. In America we speak English.
She then said: “Sir, I was speaking Navaho. If you want to speak English, go back to England.”
Finally, we would do well to take to heart the famous quotation of Emma Lazarus at the foot of the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Lee H. Lybarger