Considering the kerfluffle being raised by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Lo! these past couple of weeks, I thought it apropos to re-print an essay I wrote following the Paris terrorist attacks some weeks ago. The original post is on my other website, here– http://www.michaelbutchin.com/blog/post/paris-and-the-american-response
Many of our own governors and senators and representatives here in the United States have decided that, because there is a chance that at least some terrorists came to the West as refugees, we must close our door to all refugees from Syria, North Africa, and the Middle East. Many in Europe are also discussing tighter security and more stringent measures for screening asylum-seekers. And there are, astonishingly, many politicos here in America, making news by declaring that we should not allow Muslims into the country…that certain refugees should be forced to wear ID badges…even that Syrian Americans ought to be rounded up into camps.
And why are our leaders in America reacting this way to events in France? Because they are afraid. And because, though they lack imagination, they understand that they are expected to “do something.” All the talk seems to be about “Security.” I find it all deplorable and intolerable.
In Paris, the night of the attacks, strangers were opening their homes and apartments to complete strangers, offering shelter and companionship. Many Parisians interviewed, rather than displaying hatred, expressed pity for the terrorists, and offered encouragement and comfort to their fellow citizens. While politicians expressed suspicion and mistrust, the citizens made no distinctions between one another, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew. And France and the West retaliated against Daesh positions in Raqqah.
Based on what I have read about Daesh, and understand about them, Daesh is much like our own Christian Evangelicals. Especially the Christian Dominionists. Daesh is an End-Time cult. They believe that Islam cannot coexist with Western civilization, and one of their purposes in these terror attacks is to sow mistrust and hatred of Muslims. They want to divide the world into two camps; Muslim and Kafir. They want to establish a world-wide caliphate, according to their own narrow interpretation of Islam.
When we in the west react with violence, paying stripe for stripe, wound for wound, and burning for burning, we play into their purposes. They want to sow division, and fear, and suspicion. They want us to believe that we are not safe, and that they can strike at us at any time. They want us to smother ourselves for the sake of “security.” They want us to strangle our own way of life through fear. But we mustn’t give in.
The best way for ordinary citizens to defeat Daesh, is to simply live according to our principles. Especially the principles of Liberte et Fraternite. When they see they cannot divide us from each other, they are defeated. When they see they cannot make us afraid of each other, they have failed. When we embrace one another, and stand together, they have no power over us. The excessive security measures that we are implementing play into their hands. They do not have to oppress us; we are doing that for them.
Of course, we need to protect the body. There are many security measures that could be implemented that would not suppress who and what we are as a culture. But many of our politicians are so fearful, and many fellow-citizens are so paranoid, as to be prepared to sacrifice Liberty for Security. But, to misquote Benjamin Franklin, if we give up liberty for security, in the end, we will have neither. The body must be protected; but not at the cost of the soul (you should pardon the expression). If the soul withers and dies, what good then is the body that housed it?
There are many refugees coming to us. They are trying to escape the Daesh murderers. How can we turn them away? Compassion and humanity must be allowed to triumph over fear and hate. Is there a chance that some terrorists will slip in? Certainly. Is it possible that anything less than Draconian measures will allow more terrorist attacks in our cities and homes? Of course. But is it not better to live in the freedom of our common humanity than to live shackled by fear and mistrust? Our fellow human beings need our help; can we in good conscience turn them away?
Tragedies will happen. Death can come to any of us, at any moment. And Death does come to us all, in the end. Is it worth being so fearful? That’s what the terrorists want—for us to live in fear of them. Isn’t it better to live together in love and fellowship? And if we die, at least they were not able to destroy our way of life.
And for those in America who claim to be Christian, and yet would turn away those in need:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and careless ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
There are many who prattle on about the price of liberty, and being ready to die for what one believes in, and about standing up to the oppressor. Is it so great a thing, then, to risk giving up your life to save others. Isn’t a better world worth the risk? It has been said that to love is to make oneself vulnerable; Well? Or is that all simply talk? Evil cannot be defeated through evil. Violence cannot be stopped by more violence. Only Love and Compassion can do that.
I Peter 3:9
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is YOUR holy book, American Christians; Will you not abide by it?
Now, does all the forgoing mean that I advocate for pacifism? No. Sometimes one must fight. Our leaders are right to be concerned for the safety their people. But it cannot go so far as to chip away at who we are as a people. Concerns for security cannot be allowed to destroy the very principles by which we live. Otherwise, what will all this “security” be protecting?
I do, however, disagree with the idea that we are “at war” with Daesh. To declare war affords them the dignity of a foreign, sovereign power. It gives them a certain amount of political recognition. I think we ought simply to treat them as criminals, and use police methods rather than military. Instead of bombing cities where they might be (amongst large civilian populations), we could cut off their routes of funding. Instead of going off to fight a non-existent army, we should treat individual terrorists as murderers, and run them to ground as we would any murderer. They must be brought to justice, and exposed to the world for what they are; NOT given the dignity of being soldiers or warriors.
I think we could do far more with our intelligence agencies and Interpol than we could through our military might. It is not that type of conflict. We must not allow the enemy to set the terms of the conflict, nor allow them to choose the battlefield.
But above all, fellow human beings are crying out for help. How can we turn a deaf ear to them? We cannot turn away. We must help them, even at the risk of our own “security,” because it is the right thing to do.