Editorials

Shameful politics of fear exploit refugees’ plight

The point of terrorism is to incite fear, and in that regard the terrorists who attacked civilians at several locations in Paris Friday night have succeeded with almost half of the governors in the United States, members of Congress and several presidential candidates.

These politicians, including Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Bevin and Sen. Rand Paul are buying into that terror by trying to block Syrians who are refugees from terrorism from finding a safe haven in this country. Unconscionably, they are feeding a fear of foreigners, of Muslims for political purposes.

This effort is masked with phrases like “hit the pause button” on allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. while something - it’s unclear what - happens. The terrible irony of this is that, to our shame, we’ve never hit the “go” button.

Through three years of brutal civil war, while almost 4 million Syrians have been forced out of their country, the U.S. has taken in almost none of the refugees. It was only earlier this year that the U.S. agreed to take 10,000 refugees over the next few years. Germany has pledged to accept 800,000 refugees, there are about a million in Lebanon. So much for welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Another of the vague platitudes thrown out is that we need to take the time to assure refugees are fully vetted. Again, the irony is that one reason the U.S. has accepted so few refugees is that our vetting process is so painstaking and long, stretching well beyond a year in some cases.

This fervor of isolationism also rests on the slim evidence that a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers Friday night. That the passport has since been identified as a probable fake, and that several of the attackers were citizens of France and Belgium seem irrelevant.

But facts really aren’t the point in this barrage of rhetoric. The point is to capitalize on the real unease people have following Friday night’s attacks to make political hay. Too bad if people who’ve lost their livelihoods, their homes and often several members of their families suffer as a result.

It is too bad. It’s too bad because it betrays the founding principles of this country, incites racism and fans the flames of religious intolerance. Certainly a victory for the terrorists.

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