I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35
Republicans never miss an opportunity to pander to their base. Sometimes they shamelessly make stuff up as when Donald Trump says he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating on 9/11.
Multiple fact checkers determined Trump never saw anything of the kind.
Other times, Republicans exploit tragedies like the Paris massacre for political gain. For example, knowing Islamaphobia runs rampant in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order last week banning Syrian refugees from settling in the Peach State even though none of the terrorists in Paris were refugees or Syrians.
As the New York Times’ Paul Krugman notes, it’s part of the right wing’s phony narrative that says as long as there’s a Democrat is in the White House, some horrific catastrophe or other is about to strike America.
In 2013, as President Obama began his second term, it was an impending financial meltdown. In 2014, Krugman wrote, it was an Ebola pandemic. Now it’s Syrian refugees running interference for ISIS terrorists.
“(P)anic is what the right is all about,” observed Krugman.
Ryan Cooper of The Week added, “The fact that conservatives who are explosively soiling themselves in panic immediately jumped to bar the door to refugees … is stark evidence that it’s anti-Islamic bigotry, not sensible security precautions, driving this attitude.
While Deal can direct state agencies not to help Syrian refugees, he has no legal authority to prevent them from coming to Georgia and being assisted by nongovernmental organizations such as World Relief.
The 1980 Refugee Act authorized the president to allow anyone into the U.S. facing “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
The executive also has the authority to act quickly if he perceives an “emergency refugee situation” just like the one in Syria where ISIS animals and the murderous al-Assad regime have forced innocent Syrians to flee for their lives.
Deal’s meaningless order is just cynical political grandstanding.
Gov. Deal is probably acquainted with the above scripture. So I queried 10 prominent Cobb County Christian clergymen to ask if they thought Deal’s refusal to help the refugees conflict with Jesus Christ’s command to welcome the stranger.
Evidently, they’ve washed their hands of the refugees because not one of them responded. A number of Atlanta area Christian clergy were incensed enough, however, to deliver a letter to Deal condemning his order.
One of them was Jodi Tarini, pastor at the Decatur United Church of Christ, who told an interviewer, “It causes me great sadness and concern that our governor has chosen to participate in this ongoing politicized debate concerning our Syrian brothers and sisters — the orphans, the widows, the weak, the wounded.”
The right’s fear mongering isn’t supported by facts. Of the 785,000 refugees admitted into the U.S. since 2001, just 12 were arrested and deported for suspected terrorist activity. None were Syrian.
According to the State Department, two-thirds of the refugees referred to the U.S. are women and children. Conservatives claim 100,000 to 250,000 Syrian refugees are coming to the U.S. By law, the administration can only accept about 10,000 refugees in 2016.
French President Francois Hollande understands, as Obama does, abandoning Syrian refugees gives ISIS a propaganda bonanza. Welcoming them demonstrates to the Muslim world that ISIS and Al Qaida criminals are lying when they claim the West is Islam’s enemy.
Hollande, who has every reason to refuse Syrian refugees, said France has a “humanitarian duty” to aid the refugees, promising his country will welcome 30,000 of them.
If conservatives want something to fear, perhaps they should focus on the threat of mass shootings, which we live with every day.
Last year, the FBI reported 486 people had been killed by mass shooters since 2001. USA Today reported that, so far in 2015, there have been at least 18 mass shootings resulting in hundreds of deaths, about one every two weeks.
Iron-ically, current federal law allows people on the FBI’s terror watch list to buy guns, a provision defended by the National Rifle Association.
In “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” stoking fear and loathing of Muslims in general and Syrian refugees in particular only serves the interests of pathetic conservative politicians who know they have nothing else to offer.
Panicked, confused people, they reckon, often act irrationally — like voting Republican.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.