Saturday, November 21, 2015

Exploiting The Plight Of Wretched Refugees For Political Gain Isn't What Jesus Had In Mind For Christians


I heard a fascinating interview with an evangelical activist on NPR when I was driving home from a meeting with P.G. Sittenfeld yesterday. P.G., the Blue America-endorsed candidate for the Ohio Senate seat held by right-wing Republican Rob Portman, seemed shocked that his Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland, the tired old establishment candidate had just come out against allowing carefully vetted Syrian refugee families, 10,000 people in all, fleeing from ISIS terrorists to seek shelter in America. P.G. had told me that "we must not be guided by bigotry or fear-mongering. As a nation we can welcome refugees, while upholding our values and ensuring our security. Vigilance and compassion can and must go hand in hand." The evangelical guy being interviewed was careful not to demonize anyone, not even the most opportunistic politicians-- like Trump, Cruz, Jeb, Christie, Dr. Ben and Cruz-- trying to take advantage of the plight of these people for their own partisan gain. Instead he talked eloquently about how Christian evangelicals are persecuted all over the world and and how their natural instincts are always in the direction of offering a helping hand.

Apparently that doesn't include extreme right-wing fakes who only masquerade as Christians while pushing an extremist political agenda, like pious GOP phony Franklin Graham who wrote on his Facebook page, misleadingly, since we check these refugees for as much as TWO YEARS, that "We cannot allow Muslim immigrants to come across our borders unchecked while we are fighting this war on terror. If we continue to allow Muslim immigration, we'll see much more of what happened in Paris-- it’s on our doorstep. France and Europe are being overrun by young Muslim men from the Middle East, and they do not know their backgrounds or their motives and intentions. Islam is not a peaceful religion as George W. Bush told us and as President Barack Obama has said-- that is just not true. Our president and our politicians in Washington need to wake up before it’s too late. This is not the time to be politically correct. Our nation’s security is at stake. The future of our children and grandchildren is at stake. We should not allow any political or religious group who want to destroy us and our way of life to immigrate to this country." I don't think the evangelical being interviewed, nor Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan were being "politically correct." But Graham is no man of God, just a false preacher with an ugly political agenda.

Of course, actual Christians-- the ones who take Jesus' message seriously, not the others-- may be Republicans politically but very much support helping the Syrian refugees.
Faith-based groups, who play a key role in resettling refugees to the United States, say they are dismayed by the wave of anti-refugee fervor set off by the Paris terrorist attacks and are urging supporters to contact elected officials on behalf of victims of the Syrian civil war.

Evangelical Christians, as well as Christians more broadly, are a core group in the Republican electoral base and are among the most passionate advocates for aiding refugees.

...For Republican presidential contenders such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who have been working hard at shoring up evangelical support in a crowded field, harsh words against refugees carries a risk of looking politically opportunistic instead of compassionate. Some advocates were particularly shocked when Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, New Jersey's governor, said that the U.S. should bar Syrian orphaned toddlers if necessary.

"That was offensive. That was mean-spirited," said one advocate with a Christian group that resettles refugees. He added: "it’s disappointing because there have been Republican senators and presidents who have strongly supported this program over the years. There’s a proud tradition in the Republican Party of welcoming those who are fleeing persecution, and this takes the party in a negative direction. It’s easy to pick on vulnerable refugees who have no voice. But there are immigrant groups who have voting power that understand what is going on. They understand that it’s an anti-immigrant message."

...[F]aith-based groups have also stepped up their advocacy efforts for refugees. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement expressing distress over calls by elected officials to halt the resettlement program.

"These refugees are fleeing terror themselves-- violence like we have witnessed in Paris," said the statement by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the conference's committee on migration. "Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive."

..."Republicans and Democrats have to tread very carefully here," [chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan] Greenblatt said. "Faith-based voters are very attentive to these issues. They’re very sensitive to helping those in need."
That means, in Ohio, the reactionary Bobbsey Twins-- Republican Portman and Democrat Strickland-- should rethink their ugly opposition to a long American tradition of offering shelter to the terrorized and threatened. And it isn't just religious people who feel that way. Also taking to Facebook, Robert Reich had a very different approach than Franklin Graham.
Donald Trump said tonight he’d implement a database system tracking all Muslims in the United States-- including Americans of Muslim faith. All Muslims in the U.S. would be legally obligated to register "at different places" around the country, putting their personal tracking information into the database. When asked how his idea differed from what the Nazi’s required of Jews, Trump responded, four times, "you tell me."

I find it less surprising that Donald Trump is now mimicking Nazi Germany than that no current or former Republican leader has yet denounced Trump's shameless bigotry. Nor, for that matter, has any current or former Democratic leader. It is necessary that Barack Obama, along with all living former presidents, leaders of the clergy, university presidents, heads of every large philanthropy, and editors-in-chief of every major newspaper, condemn this hateful venom from the leading Republican candidate for president of the United States. Every hour it stands without rebuke is more poison leeching into the bedrock of America.

This morning it was Biden, not Obama, who have the weekly address from the White House. He spoke of his and President Obama's commitment to protecting our country from terrorists, while also providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people, something, unfortunately too abstract for Trump/Carson/Cruz supporters to comprehend.
This past week we’ve seen the best and the worst of humanity. The heinous terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, in Iraq and Nigeria. They showed us once again the depths of the terrorist’s depravity.

And at the same time we saw the world come together in solidarity. Parisians opening their doors to anyone trapped in the street, taxi drivers turning off their meters to get people home safety, people lining up to donate blood. These simple human acts are a powerful reminder that we cannot be broken and in the face of terror we stand as one. In the wake of these terrible events, I understand the anxiety that many Americans feel. I really do. I don’t dismiss the fear of a terrorist bomb going off. There’s nothing President Obama and I take more seriously though, than keeping the American people safe.

In the past few weeks though, we’ve heard an awful lot of people suggest that the best way to keep America safe is to prevent any Syrian refugee from gaining asylum in the United States.

So let’s set the record straight how it works for a refugee to get asylum. Refugees face the most rigorous screening of anyone who comes to the United States. First they are finger printed, then they undergo a thorough background check, then they are interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security. And after that the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of State, they all have to sign off on access.

And to address the specific terrorism concerns we are talking about now, we’ve instituted another layer of checks just for Syrian refugees. There is no possibility of being overwhelmed by a flood of refugees landing on our doorstep tomorrow. Right now, refugees wait 18 to 24 months while the screening process is completed. And unlike in Europe, refugees don’t set foot in the United States until they are thoroughly vetted.

Let’s also remember who the vast majority of these refugees are: women, children, orphans, survivors of torture, people desperately in need medical help.

To turn them away and say there is no way you can ever get here would play right into the terrorists’ hands. We know what ISIL-- we know what they hope to accomplish. They flat-out told us.

Earlier this year, the top ISIL leader al-Baghdadi revealed the true goal of their attacks. Here’s what he said: "Compel the crusaders to actively destroy the gray zone themselves. Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one and two choices. Either apostatize or emigrate to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution." So it’s clear. It’s clear what ISIL wants. They want to manufacture a clash between civilizations. They want frightened people to think in terms of "us versus them."

They want us to turn our backs on Muslims victimized by terrorism. But this gang of thugs peddling a warped ideology, they will never prevail. The world is united in our resolve to end their evil. And the only thing ISIL can do is spread terror in hopes that we will in turn, turn on ourselves. We will betray our ideals and take actions, actions motivated by fear that will drive more recruits into the arms of ISIL. That’s how they win. We win by prioritizing our security as we’ve been doing. Refusing to compromise our fundamental American values: freedom, openness, tolerance. That’s who we are. That’s how we win.
Meanwhile, trying to prove he's as hateful and bigoted as Trump and Cruz, Marco Rubio went on Fox News to tell the frightened wing nuts who watch that silly network that he doesn't only want to shut down mosques like Trump, he wants to shut down cafes and diners and "any place where radicals are being inspired... The bigger problem we have is our inability to find out where these places are, because we’ve crippled our intelligence programs, both through unauthorized disclosures by a traitor, in Edward Snowden, or by some of the things this president has put in place with the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities." That was a barely-veiled slap at Cruz and Rand Paul who, unlike Rubio, have opposed domestic spying on American citizens.

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At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a new low in hypocrisy, the GOP, and some Dems want to forbid entry of Syrian refugees.

Of course, these are the very same Syrians whose well-being was fecking important and used to justify the demands for removal of Assad as Syrian ruler.

Apparently the only well-being considered would be that afforded by the "moderate rebels" we equipped and trained who, when set loose for combat, pissed themselves and let Russia step in.

The refugees are the non-citizen equivalent of US troops: just great when "over there" but don't come around here with any substantive needs as a result of our current war-for-profit in which they were involved.

John Puma


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