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On Paris, Syrian Refugees, and American Bigotry

Less than 24 hours after the tragic terrorist attack in Paris, the bigoted backlash against Syrian refugees had begun. 

On social media, the already barely repressed prejudice against Arabs began bubbling to the surface, as usual, couched in lies and half truths.

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Note: Not a single “fact” above is true.

An intelligent person might stop to wonder, what exactly do the Syrian refugees have in common with the ISIS terrorists responsible for the attack against Paris? Unfortunately, intelligence is not a trait in high supply on social media.

For if the “brave” defenders of our homeland against the Muslim Invasion applied even the slightest amount of brain power to answering that question, they’d realize that the refugees they’re so quick to bar the gates to have more in common with the victims of the Paris attacks than those who perpetrated it. In fact, they are fleeing from the very same monsters, who have taken up residence in their country, and are waging a bloody war against its people.

But of course, they won’t consider that question. Because for all the jingoistic war cries and anti-terrorist sentiment, this isn’t really about confusing refugees for terrorists. This is about the fact that for the last 25 years, we’ve been trained to hate Arabs, using them as a convenient replacement for the dirty commies we “defeated” in the Cold War. And without an existential threat to our “freedoms”, how else would we justify the trillions in tax dollars spent on funding our insatiable war machine?

It’s dreadfully amazing how easily we can dehumanize a whole society, and having done so, treat the members of that society as nothing more than animals.

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Note: how utterly contemptible that we would celebrate the rejection of a fundamentally American value: The US as a safe haven for refugees from around the world.

How easily we are swayed against our own very American story to treat these human beings with contempt. How tragic that we spit on the words of the New Colossus:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Less than four generations have passed since the grandparents of many of those frothing at the mouth in unrighteous joy over the suffering of others themselves arrived as humble immigrants, hoping for a new life here. Some fled Pogroms, others fled Nazis, and many simply fled the equal horrors of poverty and starvation.

How quickly we forget when it was our own families hoping the promise of America would usher in a new life, a new freedom.

Contemptible politicians quickly took up the battle cry. “BAN THE BROWN PEOPLE!” They circle the devastation like hungry vultures, pandering to our basest instincts and fanning the flames of bigotry in exchange for a few points in the polls.

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Note: A disgusting example of opportunism at the expense of human lives, courtesy of Vern Buchanan, a pathetic excuse for a human being.

As the details about the attack in Paris come out, one thing is already clear: not one of the attackers was a Syrian refugee, although some of them carried fake Syrian passports, intended to cause exactly the kind of response we’re seeing now.

It’s sad how easily Americans are played like puppets, by taking advantage of the deep roots of racism and prejudice here. Saudi nationals fly planes into our buildings, and our leaders convince us to invade Iraq. Hey, all brown people look alike, right? Just kill some who look vaguely like those who attacked us, and we’ve achieved justice. Fitting, somehow, that American justice comes at the tip of a bomb, with a crowd of smiling white faces behind it.

Ironic, that these same people arguing that we shouldn’t demonstrate exactly the kind of welcome to world’s downtrodden that America has always stood for, were just weeks ago proclaiming indignantly that “ALL LIVES MATTER”. Their empty rhetoric is exposed for what it is: barely concealed racism. Their true meaning couldn’t be clearer: “WHITE LIVES MATTER”. They hate the fact that movements like BLM tear the thin crust off their prejudices, but don’t have the intellectual honesty or internal consistency to not take the bait when the opportunity comes to discriminate against a different shade of brown.

This is the point where otherwise liberal Americans start pulling out their tolerance bona fides, introducing their black friends, and swearing up and down that this has nothing to do with race or religion, but a legitimate fear that by being decent human beings, we open up ourselves to destruction.

Bullshit.

Millions of Americans “legitimately feared” that the Negroes wild on the crazy Mexican weed would rape and kill their women, ushering in the largest war against the poor and minorities this country has ever seen. Your ill informed ignorant fear is not a legitimate excuse for rampant injustice, and for punishing millions of innocent human beings for the malfeasant actions of a few.

NO WHERE ELSE do we see this applied. We do not treat white people as suspect, despite the fact that there are more domestic terrorist attacks than Islamic. We do not treat Christians as suspect, despite the deadly toll that Christian terrorism inflicts worldwide. We treat Iran as an epicenter of evil, conveniently forgetting that they were a moderate westernized nation until we overthrew their democratically elected government. We use the Taliban and Al Qaeda as Arabic boogie men, coloring all who pray to Allah, and ignore the fact that we created and armed them.

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Note: The Gipper loved him some Taliban. 

When I look through my Facebook feed and see the frothing blood lust of otherwise civil human beings, I mourn our weakness as a nation. The worst thing about these terrorists is that they know us so well. They knew that flying planes into our buildings would convince us to sacrifice so many of the freedoms we claim to hold dear, ushering in a surveillance state that Orwell would have marveled at. And they knew that by using fake Syrian passports, they could poison the well against the innocents in Syria fleeing their violence there. Americans are too stupid to know the difference between shades of brown people, they reasoned, and we’re only too eager to prove them right.

I mourn our stupidity, and our isolated, colonial, Anglocentric viewpoints. When I have to scroll through dozens of calls for violence to find one reasonable human being, I despair for our country. When I see Christians who normally advocate for Christ-like compassion and empathy instead advocating cold hearted policies which will lead to the death of thousands, I mourn. When I see Sikhs, who AREN’T EVEN MUSLIM, getting treated as though they are terrorists, I mourn. When did we become so ignorant and cold hearted? Is this what we have become? Or is this secretly what we always have been: a nation of racist xenophobes, who only practice the words of Christ when it relates to those whose skin is like our own?

While writing on issues of race, I have watched white people I know swear up and down that their positions are not about race, and yet strangely, their viewpoints always end up supporting negative outcomes for people of color. I have a hard time accepting that this is coincidence.

The saddest fact of all is that these terrorists know us better than we know ourselves. While we lie about the racist seeds in our hearts, they expose the truth for what it is. We fear the “other”, and are easily manipulated into giving up the values we claim to hold dear in the service of that fear. It is weak, and it is despicable.

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Pictured: Not a terrorist.

It is far past time we take a good hard look at our inner hearts. If you’re advocating closing our borders to refugees who desperately need hope and compassion, I want you to look in the mirror, and say out loud to yourself: “I’m OK with letting thousands of human beings die over a risk that is less than being struck by lightning that I will be personally affected by a terrorist attack”.

It won’t make you a better person, but hell, at least you’ll have been honest.

 

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