The Daily Northwestern, the de facto newspaper of both Northwestern University and Evanston, Illinois, ran a poll asking whether the United States should admit a certain embattled ethnic group into the United States as refugees. Of the students who responded, 68.8 percent answered “no” and 31.1 percent answered “yes”. There was no “not sure” choice.
This was in 1938, and the embattled ethnic group was Jews, fleeing Nazi Germany. Today we’d be astonished that anyone would welcome Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany with anything but sympathy and open arms, especially before Hitler’s mass murders were even considered. Unfortunately, contemporary Americans, even college-aged liberal types, weren’t so into the idea of accepting refugees, even ones which we now realize had very legitimate reasons to be leaving their home country.
Refugee crises have defined 20th century conflict, since people now are so much more mobile than they ever were before and, proportionately, refugee populations are much smaller. The United States has committed to accepting 10,000 refugees in 2016, according to The Washington Post. Across a population of over 300,000,000, this is absolutely negligible. It will not affect our economy and they will not steal our jobs.
So why, then, are we so paranoid about refugees as a nation? Yesterday, Nov. 19, the House of Representatives voted in a nearly veto-proof majority to approve de facto impossible restrictions against new Syrian refugees. It’s unlikely to pass with a similar majority in the Senate, but the point still stands: America is paranoid about new Syrian refugees.
The point of terrorism is to terrorize. It is to inspire fear in the enemy. It is to inspire paranoia, angst and anger. The attacks of Sept. 11 killed three thousand, but also inspired warrantless wiretapping, a war against the wrong country, and paranoia, anger and fear directed at innocent Muslim-Americans. If, as many Americans believed, the terrorists hate us for our freedom and democracy, than the very last thing we ought to give up to defeat them is our freedom and democracy— which of course includes our ostensibly liberal attitudes towards immigration.
Were the attacks in Paris anything different? Syrians are fleeing Daesh-controlled areas in the hundreds of thousands. They are fleeing an ultra-theocratic, fascistic, ruthless state which has no scruples against executing people for the crime of being moderate. These attacks against innocent Parisians in bars and at an Eagles of Death Metal concert (not actually a death metal band, by the way) were not designed to inspire confidence in Daesh as an organization. They were designed to inspire fear of Syrian refugees.
The Triangle’s Editorial Board agrees: don’t let the terrorists win. We support the inclusion of Syrian refugees into American society, and believe that the United States can, and should, accept more.