While the eyes of the world have been understandably focused on Paris this week, it is important to remember that what is happening in the world as, literally, happening in the World.
In the past year, people in over 30 nations have been killed by terrorists.
At least 17 nations have been hit by Daesh (ISIL) or splinter groups/lone actors claiming association with Daesh, most notably its West African affiliate, Boko Haram. France is no longer even the latest. The other day, 32 people were killed in a bombing in a Nigerian market, and today there were reports of terrorist activity in Mali, Malaysia, Tel Aviv, and on the West Bank.
That each and every attack is a horrible assault on humanity is an understatement. But as a matter of numbers and facts, over 80% of those attacks have taken place in just 5 nations, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria. Nations torn by years of war, internecine strife, and outside interference. (Note: This does not take into account the terror inflicted on indigenous populations in the name of on-going conflicts, such as the persistent actions by Israel against the Palestinians.)
While there is much talk of the horrors in Iraq and Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan – horrors for which the West bears considerable responsibility in decades of both action, inaction, and colonial stupidity – the persistent bloodshed in Western Africa is largely ignored. And both pale in coverage compared to nonstop coverage of recent events in Europe. The reasons for this are surely racial and cultural: Americans are historically Euro-centric as well as being much more likely to travel to Europe than to Abuja or Kuala Lumpur. But, woefully myopic as this is, it’s the subject for another day.
On a daily basis, whole populations live in fear we here in the United States cannot even imagine. Fear which has driven millions to flee their homelands, risk their lives, seeking safe haven from torture and death. These are families, children, women, the vulnerable of the vulnerable.
Most are heading to Europe. It’s the only practical option. To get half-way round the world to the United States is a much more difficult and expensive proposition. Not to mention that the US has not been exactly welcoming to these people.
Finally, though, President Obama has said he will open our shores to 65,000 Syrian refugees. A drop in the bucket of terrorized humanity. Each and every one would be screened and vetted. Contrary to right-wing fearmongering, no one will just be stepping off ships or airplanes and vanishing into the countryside.
Of course, in light of recent events in Paris, this oh-so-modest proposition has made the GOP lose its puny, collective mind. Aside from the fact that terrorism in the US is of a largely home-grown variety (Charleston and Boston) and that no refugees have been connected to Paris, the right’s knee-jerk response is to play right into ISIL’s hands, and move to close our borders to all Mideastern refugees. This only confirms what the terrorists are saying, that the West hates and fears all Islam.
And it gets worse.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two men seeking the highest job in the nation, have suggested a religious test for refugees, i.e. Christians only [How very Christian of them!], and lawmakers in Missouri and Virginia are talking internment camps. [Ask the Japanese Americans of WWII or the Palestinians how well that works.]
Most disturbing of all, to resounding cheers, Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner has proposed closing Mosques, a Muslim registry [but not one for gun owners!*], and special identity cards for people of the Muslim faith.
From a party that throws Nazi analogies at President Obama and the Democrats at every turn, this is truly Hitlerian.
Not to mention unconstitutional and utterly un-American.
As the President said, this bold-faced bigotry is the recruiting tool ISIL has been dreaming of.
And every American should stand up to them and say, “No!” No to prejudice and fear, no to cowardice hiding behind the inflammatory rhetoric, no to shredding the Constitution because the world is not perfectly safe.
Nothing is perfectly safe. In the grand scheme of things, though, we here in the U.S. have far more to fear from our good Christian neighbors with their guns or, if people of color, from some cops on the beat, than from orphans seeking shelter from a deadly storm.
There is a saying, when you value your children more than your neighbor’s, war is near. The world has to come together, not to rain fire from the skies, but to find another way to value all our children. To live together. Without fear, without hatred, without violence.
Shame on those who turn their backs on a world crying for refuge and peace. Shame on those who let fear win. Lady Liberty would weep.
*In this country alone, over 12,000 people were lost to gun violence in 2014. In that same time, only 6 people were killed in the US in 2 “terrorist” attacks; only one such attack was connected with radical jihadis and none were carried out by refugees. Americans have more to fear from home-grown militias and right-wing racists than refugees or immigrants.