Donald Trump made a rather bold and infuriating statement the other day. He also told the Truth … at least in part. And what he said was what a lot of people wanted to hear. Of course a lot of people didn’t want to hear it too.
Both groups were right.
Trump told us that Americans do not want and that America should block all Muslims from immigrating to the United States from Syria.
He was right and he was wrong.
As a country, we have grown past religious tests. We are not perfect. We have had them. We have learned, sometimes the very, very hard way. We have – collectively – moved on.
JFK was too Catholic for some people, who feared the Pope would be running the country. Of course the earliest settlers came here to flee British religious oppression, only to set up their own style of religious repression here. And there were flirtations with Nazi extremism in the late 1930’s, and then that very uncomfortable World War II prelude in the voyage of the St. Louis, loaded with Jews to be denied entry to the US though they could view the lights of Miami from on-deck.
But we’ve grown past all that. Or so we thought.
No, Donald … We do not exclude people from our country just for religious reasons. It’s the lowest form of exclusion, right next to race.
But you can’t really blame the approach to a problem that – in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino – has a lot of people avoiding crowded spaces, high-value locations, and mass public events. The demographics drive you to the Conclusion … almost.
Personally, I don’t think you target all Muslims. You can whittle down the high-risk pool by narrowing the focus to the true demographic … the demographic prized and targeted by the extremist political factions we worry about most … young, unattached to family, disenfranchised Muslims.
Trump is partially right, but importantly wrong.
Then there’s the other lessons from our History, that give you a look at how Presidents in the past have over-reacted when you have the luxury of 20-20 hindsight.
Jimmy Carter cancelled the visas of Iranian nationals who might visit the US during the Iranian hostage crisis. But this was not a “national security measure” as much as it was a pressure point to force Iran to comply with demands to release the hostages.
And it wasn’t based on religion.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt – on the other hand – went a bridge-too-far in interning 120,000 Japanese nationals during World War II. He indeed did this for National Security, but on purely racial terms, which is horrendous even if you can dismiss the fact that few Germans or Italians were similarly interned.
Were his actions contrary to American ideals? Definitely. Were they productive? Hard to tell from the existence of a negative (the absence of wartime sabotage).
Were the actions reasonable, given the events of the time? Certainly, they provided a sense of greater security at a dangerous time in what was seen as vulnerable areas. Remember, Japanese forces invaded and created a tenuous foothold in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
Looking back, were the measures excessive? Certainly … But you do have the Luxury of Hindsight!
Let’s look at the official release from the Trump campaign.
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on .”
Now I’m willing to bet dollars-to-doughnuts that not too many sources condemning the Trump issue provided those last 11 words. And if you really think about it, it’s not far off the same reasoning FDR used. Securing what was perceived as the riskiest elements of the country’s western population until they could figure out what was going on.
Frankly, given all we know the reaction makes perfect sense. After all, there are no Uruguayan basketball players heading to America with the intent of shooting up the infidels.
But it goes too far. It’s far to broad and is based purely on religious belief. It reeks of prejudice and violates American ideals.
So let’s take the most reasonable, sensible, and fair approach.
Ban all young, unattached, disenfranchised Muslims until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.