By Nancy Smith
Conservatives talk a lot about American exceptionalism. So do I. It’s what we’re all about. But if ever there was a time to show we mean what we say — that our values, our principles, our way of life — soar above the ways of freedom’s enemies, then it’s right now, right here, embedded in our acceptance of 10,000 Syrian refugees to America’s shores.
The world needs America to be America again.
Conservative writer and CNN correspondant C.E. Cupp, said it best in a New York Daily News column earlier this week: “As nearly half of U.S. governors vow to keep their borders closed to the victims of a brutal war we’ve done little to staunch, there’s an important case to be made that accepting Syrian refugees isn’t just the moral thing to do, but the best way to prevent the future spread of terrorism.”
We have no choice. America gives sanctuary to those fleeing persecution. This is what we do and who we are. We’re the good guys.
The sadistic Islamic State, or ISIS, is looking for proof the West stands against Arabs and Muslims. It’s not going to help us to give them that proof.
Doesn’t American exceptionalism demand that we lead where others have neither the will nor the courage?
So far, approximately 220,000 people have been killed in Syria, and half of the country’s population has been displaced.
Aren’t we morally obligated to defend our Western values of democracy, freedom and equality against Islamist ideologies that would threaten them? I maintain that this is how we must do it — stand up to ISIS’ tyranny and shelter the families they tried to savagely destroy.
Closing our borders is surrendering our exceptional American values to the enemy.
This is how we must do it: stand up to ISIS’ tyranny and shelter the families they tried to savagely destroy.
I’m not the first to point out my party’s hypocrisy on this issue, but it bears mentioning again: Hooray for us for calling for more military intervention to bury ISIS in Syria; but we also get a big resounding raspberry for refusing to deal with the consequences of our minimum involvement — the displacement of millions of Syrians.
Certainly I understand why so few trust the Obama administration now, considering the president still clings to a belief that his failed ISIS strategy is “working” and neither he nor his State Department recognized the rise of ISIS in the first place — and when they finally did — at the same time it was taking one city after another across Syria and Iraq — crowed that it had been “contained.”
And, yes, I understand that the fears terrorists could enter the United States through the refugee program sparked the House bill that moved quickly through the chamber and passed Thursday, 289-137.
It was obvious by the debate before the vote, reports that one of the Paris terrorists entered Europe by posing as a Syrian refugee fanned the flames.
But absorbing 10,000 — even 100,000 — refugees is not the unmanageable security risk to U.S. citizens Rick Scott and other governors have alleged. We now have a vigorous screening process. More than half a dozen security agencies are involved, for Heaven’s sake. On top of that, refugees are interviewed abroad by officers from the Department of Homeland Security before they’re approved for resettlement. No population entering the U.S. is more closely examined than refugees.
Do you mean to tell me America can’t handle that? If so, forget the free world — we couldn’t lead our way out of a mall parking lot.
Ryan C. Crocker, dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kuwait, wrote this Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal: “The administration can hasten the process without weakening security by simply directing security agencies to devote more time and staff to the task. Congress should support this move, as it would quell concerns about terrorism.”
Here’s a chilling argument Cupp makes in favoring of accepting the refugees: “On a more practical level, the Syrian refugees are, in the eyes of ISIS, either collateral damage or potential recruits. Leaving them to roam country-less puts them in the precarious position of choosing between nothing and something. Do they run for their lives or join ISIS, the only group offering them food, shelter and some stability?”
Gratitude is a value common to fleeing refugees, folks. I remember the often-quoted adage among Vietnamese forced to flee after the U.S. pulled out of Saigon in 1975: “Eat the fruit, remember who planted the tree. Drink the water, remember the source.” I am convinced that one day the same will apply for the Syrians America takes in.
Our character is being tested.
We need our leaders in Congress, in governors’ offices, in the Oval Office to rise to the occasion, be real statesmen, understand the nature of strength and leadership and this enemy. And, please, no more political expediency or playing on fear, which does nothing but exacerbate it.
We need leaders who know who we are and how to keep us that way.
Nancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.