Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Syrian Refugees

This Republican push to stop taking Syrian refugees is strongly reminiscent of Republican demands for Obama to shut down flights from West Africa during the Ebola outbreak.  It is also, of course, along the same lines as the general conservative antipathy to immigration.

Immigration is a legitimate political issue, but it never made any sense to shut down flights from West Africa.  The Syrian refugee situation is somewhere in between, but I think it's fair to say that the Republican reaction is overblown.  Paul Ryan says that the program should be halted "until we can be certain beyond any doubt that those coming here are not a threat."  That's a standard that can't be met for any immigrant group ever.  (To quote the New York Times article:  "'It’s that simple. And I don’t think it’s asking too much,' Mr. Ryan added."  Not asking too much?  It's literally impossible to verify that any given individual isn't a threat.)

The question is why this kind of thing appeals to voters—first the nonsensical proposals on West Africa, now this weird insistence that Syrian refugees must meet a standard that immigrants from, say, Ireland have never had to meet.  I hesitate to resort to psychoanalysis, but this case really seems to call out for it.  Obama wants to bring impure, foreign bodies into the United States, and the Republicans are playing the role of the nation's immune system.

This kind of "thinking" is sick.  We must resist this nonsense and insist on a humane, sensible approach (like the one that was taken by the federal government during the Ebola crisis).  We badly need politicians who will stand up for what is right.

That's my thought for the day (good to get it out of the way early).  Now for a little rambling:

1.  The epithet for anti-Semitism in the SPD was "the socialism of fools."  The SPD's steadfast opposition to religious hatred is to its eternal credit.  This is how political parties earn their place in history:  by standing against the tide when it is pushing the wrong way.  And when political parties give in to hysteria and fear, they earn our scorn.

2.  Robert Peel was Prime Minister at the very start of the Great Famine.  He took prompt and vigorous action to alleviate the crisis, and it is commonly noted that no Irish starved to death while Peel's government was in power.  His brand of sensible, responsible governance would be taken up years later by his protégé William Gladstone, who was not quite as pragmatic as Peel but made up for it with an unusually strong sense of morality.  Britain was very lucky to enjoy such farsighted and responsible leadership in difficult times.

By contrast, the Republicans today are an utter embarrassment.  They simply aren't up to the task of governing.  They are failing test after test—it is doubtful they could handle even the most basic problem, much less a full-fledged crisis like the Great Famine.  This is all a reminder of how delicate our current equilibrium is, and how easily we could slip into shameful hatred and cowardice.


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