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“Plight Of Syrian Refugees Recalls Tale Of 2,000 Years Ago”: Bar The Gates, Exclude The Stranger, Ignore The Vulnerable

There is irony aplenty in this season, which is celebrated throughout Christendom because of the tale of a babe born in a troubled precinct in the Middle East a little more than 2,000 years ago. You know the story: A couple of modest means finds no accommodations, even as the woman is on the brink of giving birth. After the child is born, they are forced to flee the depredations of a murderous king.

As history rolls on, we find the Middle East once again in upheaval, roiled by murderous tyrants who have spurred families to seek sanctuary. Given the time of year, you’d think the plight of those families would be the preoccupation of the news cycle; you’d think accommodating them would be the pre-eminent call of preachers and politicians alike. After all, the ancient tale has been said to inspire reflection, charity and generosity.

But those sentiments seem in scant supply in these United States. Instead, we are awash in suspicion, waylaid by fear and anxiety, beset by bigotry. Many of the nation’s political leaders have insisted that we bar the gates, exclude the stranger, ignore the vulnerable.

While President Obama has called on the nation to take in more refugees from Syria — where the armies of President Bashar Assad and the self-proclaimed Islamic State represent dire threats to life and limb — 27 U.S. governors, more than half, would attempt to bar Syrian refugees from their states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has famously said that he wouldn’t even take in orphans under the age of 5.

Indeed, the call to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States has captured a substantial number of voters; 56 percent oppose President Obama’s policy. And that refusal finds support across party lines: Eighty-one percent of Republicans, 59 percent of independents and 31 percent of Democrats, according to an NBC News survey.

The proximate cause of that hunker-down insularity is the threat of terrorist attacks, a danger brought home by the San Bernardino atrocity earlier this month, which left 14 people dead and 22 injured. But humans are notoriously bad at assessing risks. While 45 Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 (counting the Fort Hood shooting), far more have been killed since then in automobile accidents and non-terrorist-related gun violence.

Besides, as the brilliant novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson has written: “Contemporary America is full of fear. (But) fear is not a Christian habit of mind. … Those who forget God can be recognized in the fact that they make irrational responses to irrational fears. … There are always real dangers in the world, sufficient to their day. Fearfulness obscures the distinction between real threat on one hand and on the other the terrors that beset those who see threat everywhere.”

Terror is not everywhere, and its risks would not increase if we were to admit substantially more Syrian refugees. They are subjected to a vetting process that takes up to two years. Anyway, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married couple who allegedly carried out the San Bernardino attack, had no ties to Syria that authorities have detected.

Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been displaced by war. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Turkey has taken in 1.9 million, while Iraq, which is still beset by armed conflict, has taken in 250,000. More than 1 million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, and more than 600,000 are in Jordan.

The far wealthier European nations are still wrangling over the numbers they will accept, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been steadfast in her welcoming tone; her country has taken in more than 98,000 Syrians and stands ready to accept as many as 500,000 refugees, including Syrians, per year for several years.

With that in mind, President Obama’s call for the United States to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year seems modest. And while providing sanctuary to some of the planet’s most vulnerable populations may not promote peace on Earth, it is certainly a small gesture of goodwill to all men.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 26, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Fearmongering, Jesus, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Hokey Cultural Crisis”: Merry Christmas; Right-Wingers, The Red Pope, And Jesus

Aah, ’tis the season for family, friends, eggnog, chipmunks singing Christmas carols — and all-out, no-mercy, blow-’em-all-to-hell war.

Not war like in Afghanistan. No, no — this is the far right’s God-awful “War on Christmas.” In this season of Peace on Earth, a delusional faction of rightists has cooked up a hokey “cultural crisis” to rally their own followers by fomenting hatred of … well, of whom? “Blasphemous-liberal-Democrat-atheist-humanists,” they shout!

The infidels are not accused of lobbing actual bombs in this “war,” but Words of Mass Destruction. Specifically, wail the purists, unholy left-wingers go around saying “happy holidays,” rather than “merry Christmas,” as Jesus taught us to say. Or was it Constantine the Great in the fourth century who came up with that?

Never mind, the rightists’ point is that diabolical lefties (i.e., Marxists) are out to ban Christmas entirely. Heroic defender of the faith Sarah Palin has even written a thin book about this devious plot, revealing that “happy holidays” is merely “the tip of the spear in a larger battle to … make true religious freedom a thing of America’s past.”

Luckily, note the Merry Christmas crusaders, there are such bright lights as Indiana State Sen. Jim Smith. Smith hopes to join Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in the “Merry Christmas Club” — in pushing state laws to allow Christian icons and ceremonies into our schools. Then there’s U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from Colorado. He and 35 of his fellow Republican congress critters have proposed a House resolution to protect Christmas. “A crèche in every public space,” is their cry, “a cross on every city hall.” To hell with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, etc.: This is war!

Actually, no, this is hokum, flimflammery, hoodoo, camel dung. It’s also insulting that they would attempt to try to generate a major social conflict over the fiction that the phrase “happy holidays” constitutes religious discrimination, whine that they are a repressed minority and equate it with war. First: Jews, Muslims, and others don’t get to brand public spaces as their religious property. Second: Nearly three-fourths of Americans are Christian, so drop the put-upon martyr pose. And third: War really is hell, with blood, lifelong trauma and death, so stop pretending you’re in one.

But rationality doesn’t seem to be included in the liturgy of their political church. Indeed, some of its acolytes have added a twist on Christmas that would make Jesus weep. Indeed, they have launched a war against Jesus! How twisted is that? They say no one should mess with the word “Christmas,” yet they’re messing with the guy Christmas is supposed to be about.

OK, technically they’re not going directly at Jesus but rather at a key part of his message and, in particular, a key messenger of Christianity: Pope Francis! They’ve decided that the Pope is a “Marxist,” pointing out that Francis speaks often about “the structural causes of poverty,” the “idolatry of money,” and the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism. Obviously, say the Pontiff’s pious critics, that’s commie talk.

The clincher for them was when Francis wrote an exhortation in which he asked in outrage: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” See, cried the carpers, that’s proof that Francis is the Red Pope!

But wait, that was a very good question he asked, one ripe with the moral wrath that Jesus himself frequently showed toward the callous rich and their “love of money.” In fact, the Pope’s words ring with the deep ethics you find in Jesus’ sermon on the mount and in his admonitions to serve the poor. Was he a commie, too?

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 25, 2015 Posted by | Christmas, Jesus, Pope Francis, War on Christmas | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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