Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Shameful Day in U.S. History

A few days ago, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, I wrote: “But don’t go off on a Xenophobic rant against allowing refugees into our country. Not everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. For most of them, terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris we’ve seen this week are part of their daily lives. They are fleeing their homelands because they are fleeing terrorism. They are scared, literally frightened for their lives, to the point where they have left their homes and belongings and fled their country merely for the chance to survive. These people are not our enemies; they are running away from our enemies. We need to recognize the difference. It was the French people who gave us the Statue of Liberty, which has always served as a symbolic beacon guiding the oppressed to our shores. It would be a sad irony if the attacks on Paris caused America to turn its back on all the Statue of Liberty stands for.”

Apparently more than half of the U.S. governors do not subscribe to my blog. These troglodytes have publicly declared that they will not allow any Syrian refugees into their states. Never mind that governors do not have the legal authority to prevent refugees from entering their states. Never mind that the U.S. has committed to accepting only 10,000 of the estimated four million Syrian refugees. Never mind that seven of the eight Parisian attack terrorists were homegrown French residents – ISIS’s current strategy is to indoctrinate natives and turn them against their own country. Never mind that terrorists can cross the U.S. borders legally and illegally without resorting to subterfuge by pretending to be refugees. Never mind that the majority of refugees are women and children. Never mind that the terrorists win when we allow fear to cloud our judgment. Never mind common sense when a knee-jerk reaction and a podium can turn a meaningless sound bite into political fodder.

On May 13 1939, the S.S. St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany carrying nearly a thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany. Most had applied for U.S. visas and planned to stay in Cuba until they could be admitted to the United States, the Cuban government allowed only 22 Jews on shore. The remaining refugees appealed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to allow them to enter the United States. But American public opinion strongly favored immigration restrictions. It would have been bad politics, so President Roosevelt turned away a steamship filled with Jewish refugees. The more than 900 frightened men, women, and children were denied sanctuary from the Nazis and sent back to Germany to their own deaths. Three months earlier, Congress had refused to pass a bill that would have admitted 20,000 Jewish children hoping to escape Nazi Germany.

Of course, they weren’t the first Jewish refugees to be turned away. Two thousand years ago, a pair of Jewish refugees refused admittance to an inn ultimately sought sanctuary in a manger. Perhaps the 27 American governors and those American citizens supporting their compassionless policy would think differently if we had a holiday devoted to Middle Eastern people refused refuge by the heartless.

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