Fear of the Huddled Masses


At first, I felt a sense of security upon hearing that more than half of our nation’s governors have said that Syrian refugees would not be welcome in their states.

Courtesy PBS

Courtesy PBS

The day after the terrorist attacks took place in Paris, I wrote about the courage shown by many Parisians. I wondered if I could be brave enough to invite strangers into my home within hours of the attacks.

Today, I read that France will take in 30,000 refugees over the next two years.

There have been times in our past when fear put us on a slippery slope–a slope that, step by slippery step, we slid down, until we moved far, far away from some of the things I value most–diversity, generosity, courage.

History repeats itself. Before World War II, fewer than 5% of Americans thought “we should encourage [Jewish political refugees] to come to America.

And though this situation bears differences from the Japanese American internment–for one, during World War II, more than 60% of the internees were actually citizens of this country, whereas the Syrian refugees are not–the fact that we once again, are making judgments against an entire group of people based on the actions of a relative few, is the same today as it was in 1942.

The vast majority of these refugees are already victims of terrorism. They’ve lost their homes, their possessions, loved ones, some, even their lives. True, there are some logistical challenges to accepting them into our country, but most of the protests I’ve seen have nothing to do with logistics. They have to do with fear.

I agree with The Washington Post’s description of where the refugees now find themselves:

Syrian refugees in the United States have become a political football after the Paris attacks.

In my opinion, the governors of the states denying the refugees are taking advantage of our fears for political gain, making statements like the one made by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a letter to President Obama:

“We will refrain from participating “in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas.”

Why do I think statements such as Governor Abbott’s are made primarily for political gain? Mostly because they don’t appear to be very well thought-out. Denying the Syrians refuge in their states leaves me with the following questions:

  1. Since some of the terrorists in recent attacks were from France, Belgium and possibly Egypt, will you deny entrance from those countries (and others?) too?
  2. How will you prevent these refugees from later relocating to your states from other states? Are you going to put guards at the borders, maybe close your borders?

In a CNN article, Delaware Governor Jack Markell made several excellent points, which you can read here. But the comment that struct me most was his reminder of the quote that appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

This prompted me to read the entire poem by Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I can’t put my reaction to this poem any better than Steve did after I read it to him: “What has happened to our humanity?”

I have no doubt I’m as frightened as the next person. But I’m going to do my best to resist for as long as I can, sliding down fear’s slippery slope.

This entry was posted in Current Events, Hate, History, Politics, Prejudice, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Fear of the Huddled Masses

  1. Steve says:

    I have fears as well that an Islamic fundamentalist will slip into the country under our immigration policy and commit an act of terror. I also have fears that any day now another angry American male, armed to the teeth, will walk into a school or shopping center and kill 5 or 10 or 15 innocent Americans. I find it interesting that our congress put a bill forward to limit Syrian immigration but has done NOTHING to intervene in the school shooting epidemic.  When it’s a foreign nationalist who might murder Americans our congress is ready to take steps. When it’s an American psychopath, well, then, “stuff happens.” 

    • Gayle says:

      So true, Steve. We’re still not doing much to hinder those incidents, partly out of fear of ‘violating our rights’. So, where do basic HUMAN rights come into the picture?…for both citizens and refugees. I understand the fear, really, about the refugees. But it’s an impossible task without changing our nation. And remember…the U.S. was founded in part by deported criminals.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Steve, it’s more evidence that our politicians pander to what’s popular, and not to their conscience or what’s best for the country. As you’ve said many times before, we “need an enemy.”

  2. Jan Morrill says:

    More proof that much of what is being said is for political purposes. They don’t do anything about that kind of terrorism because it would be politically unpopular.

  3. Gayle says:

    Well Said, Jan. My first reaction to the ‘no refugees in our state’ statements was one of the questions you raised. We have open borders. Are states now going to create border checks at all the interstates, and highways that allow us to roam the country? t seems to me that when we start limiting freedoms like the freedom of movement, having increased security checks, and deny strangers refuge in our great country, as we began doing after 9/11, doesn’t that mean that the terrorists are winning? What are we evolving into? It’s disturbing….

  4. John Fawcett says:

    We live in a near fascist state. That’s what we have evolved into. Wars for profit, wars for revenge.

    We don’t do anything about shootings in this country because there’s no profit in it for anyone so why bother. As a matter of fact to do something about it would be anti-profit.

  5. I find many of these current governors’ comments to be reminiscent of much of what was said by the Arkansas Governor Homer Adkins regarding the Japanese-Americans when the WRA decided to build camps in the state.

  6. Pingback: The Slippery Slope of Passivity and Prejudice | Jan Morrill Writes

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