Boston Common

The Politicizing Of Boston With Immigration Reform

It seems only fitting that I write this post today.  On April 19, 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord.  It would be the start of a long, drawn-out war with Great Britain that would officially end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  This past week, the eyes of the entire nation have once again been on the city of Boston… what was generally considered the cradle of the rebellion against the British monarchy.  This time, though, it is because of act of violence that left three dead and over a hundred people injured.  Authorities do have suspects.  One of them is already deceased while the other remains at large at the time of this writing.  However, I’m not actually here to discuss the bombing or the suspects directly, but an indirect consequence that all of this is having on a different discussion that is just now taking center stage in Washington… immigration reform.

deskepticon_1How this connection is made is quite simple.  The family of the suspects is from the Russian republic of Chechnya in the Caucuses region… an area that has been fighting with the Russian government for independence.  However, both suspects were born in the country of Kyrgyzstan.  One of the brothers came to the US in 2002 while the other arrived in 2004.  Both were considered refugees from Chechnya.  The youngest of the brothers had become a permanent resident of the US in 2011.  This part of the immigration debate actually has to do with legal immigration instead of the illegal part that we so often discuss.  The Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, tweeted, “Part of the ‘national conversation’ about Boston should include whether we suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. NOW.”  And liberal columnist for the The Atlanta Journal – Constitution, Cynthia Tucker, tweeted, “This smacks of the sort of terrorism that has plagued Britain, committed by legally-admitted but alienated residents. #BostonMarathon”  Though both sides of the political spectrum seem to have some agreement with this, both couldn’t be farther from the truth in this debate.

By Fischer’s own comment, we are to completely stereotype an entire group of people and forbid them from coming to this country and living as ordinary, law-abiding citizens that contribute to our country and to our society because of the actions of these two men.  Somehow, there seems to be a double standard to this on a couple of different levels.  It’s easy to find a scapegoat in this situation… to blame all Muslims and immigrants (even those that are non-Muslim) for the violent acts of these two suspects.  However, one must wonder what Mr. Fischer would say be saying if they were Christian and from somewhere in Europe.  Yes, they do exist, too.  And contrary to what Ms. Tucker tweeted, Britain’s problems haven’t always been the influx of Muslim immigrants.  It used to be the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) which was deemed a terrorist organization that bombed innocent people, and they were Christians.  So should we not let Irish people immigrate to the US… or Christians for that matter… in case they might have terrorist intentions?  I don’t see anyone speaking up in favor of this.  We tend to judge those types of immigrants on an individual basis, so why shouldn’t we do that with Muslims still?  What about Italian immigrants?  It used to be that Italian immigrants made up parts of the mafia that would go around terrorizing the cities in which they lived.  Should they be excluded from immigrating here because of past mistakes of people they have no connection with?  Again, I don’t see too many people speaking up in favor of this either.

And as much as people would like to infuse the debate on immigration reform into the Boston Marathon bombings… thus politicizing it, these same people are still forgetting about American citizens (people that are born here as US citizens) that commit acts of terrorism.  We are turning a blind eye to this part of the conversation.  If we are to deny an entire group of people legal immigration status because of the action of two people, should we not stereotype our own citizens with the same levels of hatred?  The Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 were bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph.  He was an American… not an immigrant.  He belonged to the Christian Identity movement which is a militant, racist, and anti-Semitic organization.  Though not an immigrant, should his acts be held against other Christians?  What about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing?  Should white men not be allowed to rent moving trucks because of the horrible act this man committed?  In both of these questions, any rational person that is not speaking with absolute fear would answer ‘no.’

WRD - refugeeThe problem with stereotyping a group of people is that it is only done out of fear and has no place in rational, logical discussions.  Fischer went on to tweet later in the day, “I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy.”  So again, his thought process is that the violent and hateful acts should also be placed on other legal immigrants just because they are immigrants.  I would also hazard a bet that he also speaks out heavily on illegal immigration.  The problem with that is that we can’t deal with illegal immigration unless we deal with the broken legal immigration system.  And by tightening it to the point to where he’d possibly be satisfied, it would probably only exacerbate the illegal immigration situation.  In this particular instance, you can’t have it both ways.   And he also forgets one tidbit of additional information… that these two suspects were refugees.  The US has a different set of policies when it comes to refugees from war-torn areas than just people wanting to immigrate to our country.  Should we be stopping all refugees from entering our country?  While the Bosnian War raged on during the 1990s, the US took in thousands of Bosnian refugees.  I live in a city where many of these refugees have settled.  They are peaceful, law-abiding people that have worked hard to be a part of our society.  Since coming here, they have opened up new “mom and pop” businesses and have worked to add their culture to our own.  If a couple of them had been bad seeds in the way that the two suspects in Boston have been, does that mean we should have stopped allowing them to come into our country?  Absolutely not.  And what about the ones that were already here?  Would we have kicked them out, or would they be allowed to stay?  The problem with stereotyping as I am seeing done, as it is being injected into the immigration debate, is that it doesn’t hold up in an actual rational debate.  When people start speaking (or tweeting) this utter-nonsense, it just shows that they are afraid.  Terrorism lives on fear… but it can’t win when there is courage.  And one of the best things I saw that day in Boston was the courage of those who rushed toward the scene to help those who needed it the most.  We must always be diligent, but we must not give in to fear.  Terrorism can’t win so long as there is courage to combat the fear, and stereotypes can’t win so long as there is logical, rational thought to defeat it.

UPDATE:
The second suspect is now in police custody.  Keep in mind, he is still considered a suspect.  Under the US Constitution, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  The task now falls onto the state to get him convicted.

LINKS:
Point-Scoring on Immigration – Slate
Questions from Boston – POLITICO

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Reactionary Thought

On the 11th of September, while we here in the United States were remembering the attacks from 11-years ago, another situation erupted in two different nations half a world away.  Protests began in Egypt and in Libya.  Both had to do with the same thing… a movie made by someone here in the United States, whom we don’t know the identity as of yet, depicting the prophet Mohammad which is sacrilegious in the Muslim world.  In Cairo, Egypt, they stormed the US Embassy and took down the American flag.  In Benghazi, protesters marched outside the American consulate.  Everything seemed fine there, until a small group of armed militants took over the protest and stormed the consulate and setting fire to it.  This attack would end up killing four people… including the new American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

As some Americans are now ready to fall back on basic stereotypes on all Muslims, another side this story developed in Libya.  The very next day, the people came out and marched again.  But this time it was a sign of solidarity with the United States… to show us that they stood with us in our grief over Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was someone they liked and admired.  After the attack on the consulate, it was the Libyan people who had carried Ambassador Stevens to the hospital in an effort to save him.  They might be upset over this so-called internet movie, but they also realized that there is a line between a civil protest and an act of terrorism.  As they took to the streets to show their support for us, they held us signs that read that the extremists didn’t speak for the people of Libya and they condemned the violence.  (slideshow)  The people of Libya realize that the United States helped to play a crucial role in their fight for freedom against an authoritarian regime, and they have not forgotten.  And we should not forget that there is a difference between the average citizen and the extremists.

My father and I have often had conversations that have centered around this part of the world.  We don’t tend to see eye-to-eye exactly, but I guess that is a generational difference.  In our discussions though, as we go back and forth between the moderates and the extremists, he usually points out that the moderates need to voice up so that they can be separated from the extremists.  I point out, after watching an open forum with faith and the Muslim community, that when the moderates do raise their voices so that they can be heard over the extremists, we are quick to place the extremist stamp on them, as well.  In this instance, however, the moderates made sure their voices were heard… to make sure that we here in the US knew that the extremists (those that carried out this horrible attack) did not speak for them and that they held our ambassador and our nation in great esteem… that they hadn’t forgotten the help that we had given them.  These were the voices that needed to be heard.  What started out as a protest against us could end up bringing us closer together.

Protests will continue throughout Muslim nations, and our embassies are on high alert.  Even now, Egyptian security forces are clashing with protesters outside the US Embassy in Cairo.  As much as we demonize the people for protesting the United States and even burning the American flag (and even voicing “death to America”), they are practicing a basic right that we tend to take for granted in our country… the right to assemble and the freedom of speech.  It does’t necessarily mean that we will like what they have to say though.  But that also doesn’t mean that they have a right to violence against anyone… including our own people.  We must make sure that we have the right to defend our people when they get in harm’s way.  But their people also need to realize that just because someone in the US makes a movie denouncing their religion, it doesn’t mean that we all do.  The person who made this film is the only person the film represents.  For those of us who are logical, rational Americans, this film comes no where close to representing who we are and what we believe.  And yes, there are those in our own country who would turn to violence if the situation was reversed, so we shouldn’t start acting all high and mighty either.

As the flames continue to burn, let us all stop for a moment and allow logical thought to sink in.  Americans do not hate Muslims.  The people of Libya have shown their true colors by denouncing the terrorism and siding with the US.  A small group of extremists should not allow us to fall back on stereotypes… nor does it give us permission to do so.  This goes for our elected leaders and for us average citizens.  Knee-jerk reactions will get us no where.  Statesmanship is an art form and not a game of chess.

The person who made this movie that sparked this fire had to know what he/she was doing and what the consequences of those actions would be.  We had seen it before  when a Dutch newspaper printed a caricature of the prophet Mohammad.  Though we practice freedom of speech, we need to also think of the ramifications of such speech in today’s technological world.  We must all learn to respect one another… and respect our right to speech and protest.  But we must not allow violence and terrorism to seep into our society.  The people of Libya are making that known to us and the world that the terrorists will not represent them or their nation, and that should be commended.  Events are still unfolding even as I write this, but I hope that with the passage of time that this fire will die away along with this “so-called” film that sparked it all.  If the creator feels the need to remain in secret, then we have no need to remember it.  What we shall do is continue the work in Libya that Ambassador Stevens had started and show that we, too, are better than just reactionary thoughts.

LINKS:
Did the US Embassy in Cairo Make An Apology? – Politifact
Libyans Denounce Acts of Terrorism (slideshow) – Yahoo
Six Things to Know About Attack (Libya) – CNN
Egypt Security Forces Clash With Protesters – Yahoo

Radicalism

As the week draws ever closer to the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is not difficult for me to sit and ponder.  The main problem is that there seems to be no answer to the questions I seek answers to.  In the aftermath of the attacks, we launched a war on terrorism and now find ourselves embroiled in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and several other places around the world.  This is all in the name of fighting terrorists.  And any time there is an attack of some kind here at home…. whether it be a shooting rampage or something even more severe, we immediately start asking if this was an act of terrorism.  I find it interesting how are mind jumps to the conclusion immediately and then settles back into other possible answers as more information usually becomes available.  Even in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ), the media was already wondering if the shooter was linked to al Qaida.  Now this isn’t to say that there haven’t been times when there has been a domestic terrorist attack in the US.  I’m sure most of us remember the Fort Hood shootings.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks (and it still takes place today), Muslims and Muslim Americans face discrimination based on nothing more than stereotypes.  As if they all had something to do with it or even condone it.  They seem to have had the stereotype fall upon them that we would put on the radical fundamentalists that carried out the attacks.  But I don’t believe in such stereotypes, and it still amazes me how many people can just toss out rational, logical thought and believe in such things.  That would be the same everyone thinking that all Christians are terrorists out to destroy those who don’t agree with them because of The Crusades.  And has anyone stop to think for a moment that the guy who blew up a federal building in Oslo, Norway and then went to an island full of kids and starting killing them unmercifully was an extremist Christian? Yeah… the extremes go both ways.  But you don’t manage to still hear the same rancor that came after the attacks on 9/11.  Maybe that’s because it was done in another country.  But what about the Oklahoma City bombing?  That was done by an American on American soil… and had no religious affiliation to it whatsoever.

Most people in the world hold their personal religious beliefs close to themselves.  And most people with even half a brain don’t follow every word to the last letter of their religion.  There is usually some discrepancies when it comes to each individual.  And most are willing to let others have their beliefs so long as it doesn’t inflict upon anyone else.  Sadly, though, it’s the radical fundamentalists on the extreme wings of the religions that have the loudest voices and have the ability to manipulate those parts of the population that are not educated or at least not wanting to think for themselves.  And as a result, all people that follow that religion are grouped into that stereotype even if they haven’t and never would do anything to the extreme and just want to live the simple lives with their neighbors as they have been doing.

Does that mean their aren’t religious fundamentalists out there that are willing to harm us?  Not at all.  We must always remain ever vigilant, but we must also remember that it’s usually not the average person that we must watch out for.  Rather, it’s those that can’t think for themselves and must be told what to think and when to think it… and how they should feel.  Yes, it is hard to identify such people from the average person, but that still does not give us the right to treat any group of people under an umbrella stereotype.  We all know that we wouldn’t like it if it was done to ourselves, and it’s always possible for us to be lumped into something simply because of an overreaching stereotype.

Hate can be a powerful tool… and even more so with the tools of religion.  Anything can be drastically warped to fit into the minds of those people who are looking for someone to blame their problems on.  The problem is that the population has to be willing to step up, ask questions, and not believe everything that they hear and read.  The radical fundamentalists that are trying to hijack people’s minds and use it then to terrorize the general population are betting on us not being able to do it.  When we lose the ability to think for ourselves… when we lose that ability to ask questions… when we succumb to grouping an entire group of people (based on religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, etc) into one generic, overreaching stereotype, then we have fallen into the abyss that the extremists have wanted us to fall into.  And it’s at the moment that the leaders of those movements can warp minds and bend any information to fit their overall goals.

So let me ask you this as we are now in our tenth year in our ‘war on terror’.  Is it actually possible to win this war or is it just to make the general population feel good that something is being done?  And how do we know that we’ve won or lost?  Is it possible to root out and defeat all terrorism in the world?  Is the previous question a sign that we are bringing terror to a part of the world?  And this leads to the ever-bigger question… What is terrorism and a terrorist?  How do we define these two broad words?

As we approach the tenth anniversary, we need to take a good long look at how the past ten-years have unfolded.  Are we a fair and just people?  Have we made the right decisions along the way (even if we have killed the al Qaida leader that orchestrated the attacks)?  Have we developed our communities and our society in a way that we are inclusive of those that aren’t just similar to us but to also those that are different?  Do we attempt to broaden our understanding of those things that are different from our own… whether it be other religions, other countries, or other cultures?

And though we must remain ever vigilant against those that would do us harm, I still feel that it is important to not lose our overall core values.  Each of us has the right to be judged on the person we are and not by the actions of others.  The radical fundamentalists want to group everyone into two categories… for or against.  There is no middle ground.  In regards to religious fundamentalists, this doesn’t just come from those that are Muslim.  It also comes from Christians and Jews.  Fundamentalism is never based with one group and not another.  All groups have their fundamentalists that are willing to go to the extremes to get what they want.  It’s up to those of us that can think for ourselves… those of us they consider moderates (or just the average person) to make sure that our voice gets louder so that their evil messages can’t gain any ground.

So let me leave you with one last question through all of this.  How can we protect ourselves from any and all radical fundamentalists, or is it even possible?  As I said at the beginning, there are no easy answers to the questions that I am asking.  But then again, maybe there aren’t supposed to be easy answers in this situation.  For there to be then there would be no overall conflict and no reason for this entire entry.  As we continue to move forward, we must always be willing to ask ourselves the tough questions, to not follow blindly, to shape our society in a way that we can be inclusive, and we must not hate.  For as it has been said by Buddha, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

Let Us Have Peace

Let us have peace.”  Ulysses S. Grant~

Who could have imagined that yesterday, May 1, 2011, would end up having historical significance not just for the United States but also for the world?    It was announced that the United States had finally killed terrorist and al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden… the mastermind behind embassy bombings in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, and the 9/11 attacks.  For those of us that can remember these events, the news of the day brought great celebrations from the Atlantic to the Pacific and amongst our various world allies.  But within our euphoric celebration, we must also remember to be humble.  Yes, this man was seen as the embodiment against all our freedoms and yet, he was still just a man.

After the 9/11 attacks, we watched many Muslim people celebrate in that part of the world to the catastrophic events that were unfolding upon our soil.  (Note… not all Muslim people celebrated.  So don’t start going off into stereotypes.)  And yet, almost ten-years later, upon hearing of the death of its great mastermind, our people take to the streets to celebrate and be damned with the consequences of how this will look to the rest of the world.  In essence, we were quite hypocritical during the first moments of euphoria.  Instead of celebrating in the streets over this news (and thus celebrating our freedoms), we should use this time for reflection and contemplation.  The attacks on September 11, 2001, brought our nation together as very few events ever had before.  It was a time of patriotism and pride in all things that make our nation great.  And on this new day many years later, we should contemplate again what it means to be an American and how we now progress forward.  The war on terror is not over just because we chopped off the head of the serpent.  We must continue to be ever vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves from those that would do harm unto us.

This is not a time for one party to claim victory over another party.   The capture or death of Osama bin Laden has been a goal through several presidential administrations… both Democrat and Republican.  Through the valiant efforts of our intelligence community, this day has been brought to us.  And they, along with our armed forces, deserve our utmost gratitude.  It is for the love of their country and countrymen that they serve us today… and most of them will never be known to us.

As we begin our march through the days and years ahead, let us remember what this man’s death meant to our nation and to the rest of the free world.  But let us not get caught up in the stereotypes that have plagued the efforts over the years.  This was just a man in charge of a small group of radical fundamentalists and should not be considered any further.  We should show the world that we have the ability to be humble in our times of great success while enjoying the patriotism that will unite us as a people once again.  The words of Gandhi come to mind at this time.  “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”  As we continue our efforts before us, let us not lose sight of who we are as a people and as a nation.  The principles upon which we stand for should never be sacrificed for the greater good, and we should always remember to hold ourselves to the high standards that we expect other nations and other people to live up to.  We are all one in the same… even if we see ourselves as different.  Let us remember that in this moment and for the times ahead.  That is how we can truly win.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln~ (March 4, 1865)

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