My individual experience: I flew out of Boston’s Logan Airport five days before September 11, 2001. As I arrived an hour and a half early for my flight, I was put through the nth degree of security checking—even my tape recorder (yes, those were the days!) was taken out of my bag and turned on to see if it worked as it should. Less than a week later, the same protective organization (if not the same people) unquestioningly let through a squad of sour-faced men carrying box cutters, who drove the planes they hijacked into the Twin Towers.
During World War II, there were numerous plots among fascist-sympathizing German-Americans to aid the Nazis, but I know of not one single instance of a Japanese-American abetting the Empire of the Rising Sun, and as we know (in one of those uncomfortable ironies with which history is replete), it was the ethnic Japanese whom our federal government preemptively interned, while permitting ethnic Germans to continue ordinary life unimpeded. So, origin and ethnicity is not the central determining factor in choosing anti-American extremism.
However, contrary to almost all of my liberal friends, I DO think there is a credible threat of terrorist plants being imported along with the Syrian refugees, simply because doing so would be intelligent strategy on the part of Daesh. One sweet liberal girl I know recently ridiculed this notion as improbable because of the superior financial resources of the terrorist organization. But non-state actors (despite the generally-used IS acronym, the organization isn’t much of an established state, nominal caliph or no) tend to use unconventional means, and over the last twenty or so years, unconventional means have proven the least expected and oftentimes most effective against developed countries. We Americans may have lasers that can immobilize satellites, but we are mostly defenseless against suicide bombers. Why should our enemies bother with high-tech when low tech is so damn easy and goal-oriented? Particularly when you have human vehicles who are willing to self-destruct, “smart weapons” of the American 21st-century computer sort are a superfluous investment. So, is there a possibility of one or more among hundreds of refugees being a would-be bomber? Yes. Though the majority of the men involved in last week’s Paris attacks were born in Europe, at least one of the Paris attackers was disguised as a refugee.
Therefore, it is natural that my conservative friends should be doubtful when assured by our national government—with its habit of straining out gnats and swallowing camels—that protocols are in place to remove risk, and it is also reasonable that they should choose to declare their distrust through the only agency they have, which is to urge their legislators to deny wholesale entry to people of whom a fraction are potentially dangerous. However, I contend that, as evidenced by the Paris example and by the largest terrorist attack on American soil prior to September 11, the greater threat tends to be home-grown, rather than imported. I still see the reasoning behind wanting to illuminate one source of problems, but in this case it meshes uncomfortably with historical American fears of “the other” among immigrants (an attitude, I should point out, which is not unique to Americans, but seems hypocritical given our published pride in being a nation of immigrants). And one should not turn a blind eye to need.
There have been numerous Facebook posts about “aiding the 50,000 homeless American veterans” instead of the Syrian refugees. I am curious as to whence these veterans suddenly sprung, having not heard much of their painful plight before. I don’t say they don’t exist, but I’d like to know how that number was arrived at, and for how long the problem has persisted—just because someone begging on a street corner holds a ragged cardboard sign declaring veteran status does not convince one way or the other. Still, if such are abundant, and because of comparisons to the refugee situation theirs has also come to the fore, are we so incapable nationally that we cannot address both issues simultaneously?Many of my liberal friends have taken pains to point out the apparent hypocrisy of conservatives, who are publically denying shelter to Middle Eastern displaced persons—just in time for the Christmas season. But in this criticism, they are themselves inconsistent, as they regularly have ridiculed and penalized American Christians for practicing the everyday tenets of faith (from public prayer to positions on social issues), and now scold them for apparent reluctance to pull out all the stops to welcome the poor, tired and hungry. Just on a human level, this expects a level of psychological contortion worthy of the Cirque de Soliel. This social gospel cherry-picking—wanting all the social benefits of Christian self-sacrifice but ignoring the morality incumbent in the message--reminds me of a fete that was held for Mother Teresa back in the (Bill) Clinton administration, during which that little old nun was publically celebrated for her charitable work among the poor but her words about not aborting children were cheerfully ignored by the progressive crowd. Trampling repeatedly on someone’s beliefs and then expecting them to show up cheerfully in full strength with help when you need it is hypocrisy at its finest.
On the other hand, on whom are American Christians really relying for security? On the government, with its abysmal track record, or on God? Are we as guilty, by default, as atheists of thinking that our physical well-being depends on other humans? And since when did Jesus promise that our lives in a lost world would be safe and comfortable?
My conclusion, thus, is this: Christians ought vocally to welcome the refugees, but explicitly as Christians. Not as “nice Americans”, not because of any ideals Emma Lazarus hopefully inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, but as warty with imperfections and cloudy spiritual purity as we are. We should present the whole package, the rigorous Gospel, none of this watered-down socially-acceptable “seen and not heard” version of modern religious practice. Extreme devotion to a perverted religious idea got these poor folks into this mess, it’s time that profound love for a perfect Savior, who gave his life for both wimps and terrorists, got them (and our countrymen) out of it.