Just a few years ago, we recall, President Bush was saying this country would not do various things because if we did, “The terrorists would win.”
Some of Missouri’s politicians are demanding Governor Nixon, in effect, seal the state’s borders to protect us from Syrians. The Paris attacks this year and particularly in the last few weeks are giving ample opportunity to some to fan the flame of fear. Fanning the flame of fear is good for those who want to be seen as protectors from evil. Or, evil-doers to borrow again from the Busch II years. And with elections coming up, it never hurts to carry the image as a protector.
Terrorists want to scare governments and people into changing their behaviors. Their ultimate goal is much larger, of course. But first they have to create a climate that is ever more restrictive of thinking, of movement, of hope. Sealing borders tells us they are winning.
And what is all of this fuss about?
President Obama has said he will allow four times as many Syrian refugees to come into this country as have been admitted in the last four years. And Secretary of State John Kerry has announced this country will lift the lid on the number of refugees admitted to this country from the present 70,000 to 100,000 in 2017. Many of those new slots will go to Syrians fleeting terrorists.
Are Obama and Kerry going to flood this country with terrorists? Are we all in peril if we go to a play, to a restaurant, to a sports stadium if a flood of Syrians comes in? The answer is a simple one: to maintain public safety, we have to keep Syrians from flooding into our state.
There is no flood in Missouri. There won’t be a flood in Missouri.
The New York Times on November 16 reported that only 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since 2012. The nine volunteer agencies working with them have scattered them among 130 communities. The newspaper says Boise, Idaho has more Syrian refugees than New York and Los Angeles combined. Worcester, Massachuesetts has more than Boston. Should the people of Boise quit going to restaurants? Should the people of Worcester fear attending a concert or a movie?
Missouri has a few Syrians in the St. Louis area. Overland Park, Kansas has a few. The International Institute of St. Louis, which has been working with immigrants for 96 years, reports eight percent of the population of St. Louis City and St. Louis County is foreign-born. 7,500 people from 75 countries.
The Post-Dispatch reported in September that 28 Syrians had arrived in St. Louis this year and twenty more were expected by the end of the year.
When we close our borders to Syrian refugees, can we draw the border so it keeps St. Louis on the outside because that city already endangers the safety of our state because almost fifty more of those dreaded Syrians will be there at the end of the year?
The Times says Syrian refugees made up only two percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted to this country last year. Germany in that same four-year period has admitted 92,991 Syrian refugees. President Obama says this country will admit 10,000 this year. The Census Bureau says we already have 150,000 Syrians living in this country of 300-million people.
Syria ranks seventh in the list of countries whose immigrants have been allowed into this country in the most recent federal fiscal year. Myanmar has sent almost 20,000. Iraq has sent about 12,000. Somalia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan have sent more than 5,000 each. Iran has sent far more than Syria.
But it’s Syrians who have a bunch of Missouri politicians in a froth. Well, how easy is it for those scary people to get here? They have to apply to the United Nations first. If the UN says they can come, they have to be examined by the FBI. They have to be run through terrorism databases run by the Defense Department and by other government agencies.
The UN has recommended 18,000 Syrians for scrutiny by the United States. The State Department says more than half of them are children.
Not all Syrians are suicide bombers, you know. And when it comes to killing bunches of people, we are pretty good about doing that ourselves. A check of a couple of websites that list mass shootings and finds that since March of 2005, this nation has had thirty-three incidents in which 270 people have been killed and 254 have been wounded. One of those incidents was in Kirkwood in February, 2008. Six dead, one wounded. Another incident began in Illinois and ended in Festus. Eight dead. Four of the incidents happened in Wisconsin. Four more were in California. We don’t think we say any Syrian names on those lists of killers. But we did see people from Wisconsin and California. Perhaps we should block people from those states from coming to Missouri. Those people clearly are dangerous.
We checked a list of German mass killings since March, 2005 and came across one incident where a German student killed 12 other students and three other people before killing himself in 2009. We checked Germany because it has been a landing place for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East for more than a decade.
But let’s be afraid anyway. Because some of our leaders find it advantageous to tell us we should be afraid. Of Syrians.
Cultivating a climate of fear among the electorate is convenient. It keeps the electorate from raising embarrassing questions about things like school funding, mental health services, crumbling roads and creaking bridges, lack of funding for cigarette-related health issues, services to veterans—-add your own priority here. Then forget about it because you are supposed to be living in fear of a Syrian.
Edward R. Murrow, the great CBS newsman, observed on his See it Now broadcast of March 7, 1954, when he said, “No one can terrorize a whole nation unless we are his accomplices.”
When Murrow began a series of programs called This I Believe in 1951, he noted:
“We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion. A lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism, or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the marketplace, while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply. Around us all—now high like a distant thunderhead, now close upon us with the wet choking intimacy of a London fog—there is an enveloping cloud of fear.
“There is a physical fear, the kind that drives some of us to flee our homes and burrow into the ground in the bottom of a Montana valley like prairie dogs to try to escape, if only for a little while, the sound and the fury of the A-bombs or the hell bombs or whatever may be coming. There is a mental fear which provokes others of us to see the images of witches in a neighbor’s yard and stampedes us to burn down his house. And there is a creeping fear of doubt—doubt of what we have been taught, of the validity of so many things we have long since taken for granted to be durable and unchanging.
“It has become more difficult than ever to distinguish black from white, good from evil, right from wrong.”
If you want to hear the entire broadcast or read the entire script, go to http://thisibelieve.org/essay/16844/
And finally, from another See it Now broadcast, this one from 1954:
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”
The problem with sealing the borders is not necessarily the people we seal out. It’s the kind of people we seal inside with us who made us fearful to begin with. And the action does nothing to end the terror that drives people to our borders. In terms of our national character, could it be that those who tell us we should live in fear are more dangerous than children from Syria?