The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday are bringing out a nasty side of the right wing. Of particular interest to me was Michael Farris’s response. Farris, as you may remember, is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College. He was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 1993, and since then has focused on encouraging political activism among conservative young people through Generation Joshua.
With this background, here is Farris’s status from yesterday morning:
When I first heard news of the terrorist attacks in France I felt deep sadness for the victims but also a sense of foreboding regarding what would happen next. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led to wars in the Middle East that lasted a decade and in many senses are still ongoing—wars that haven’t seemed to make anything safer. Wars that—I worry—have the side effect of creating only more militants and leading to further bloodshed.
And then there is the Syrian refugee crisis. I should have figured that the refugees would be the first to feel the brunt of any popular response, and here it is. Many on the right have expressed concern for months now about the refugees being or harboring terrorists, even calling the refugees an “invading army.” When a Syrian passport was found near one of the detonation sites on Friday, many jumped to the conclusion that one or more of the terrorists were Syrian, and from there to a confirmation of their view of the Syrian refugees as threat.
And here is our own Michael Farris, using the attacks to call for an end to any accepting of Syrian refugees. In church on Sunday—I go to a UU church—our minister spoke of our thoughts being with “our Muslim brothers and sisters” and expressed concern about possible reprisals and violence. But to too many on the right, there is no brother or sister, there is only terrorist.
Some individuals pushed back on Farris’s Facebook wall:
Unfortunately, there was also a lot of misinformation on display. For instance, when one commenter argued that the “vast majority” of the refugees are innocent, another objected:
Note the claim that Obama is only accepting Muslim refugees, and has closed the door to Christian refugees. This is not true, but it’s a common right wing myth nonetheless.
In another case, when a commenter argued that Jesus would open the door to refugees and accused Farris of making a “sick mockery” of Christ, another commenter responded by calling her an anarchist:
There were additional, similar comments:
Yes, the above commenter really did say that those who welcome the refugees “will be bodies for the graves which these islamic invaders will create.”
Other commenters also minced no words:
And there was this rather bizarre comment laden with conspiracy:
Yes, this commenter really appears to believe Paris is on the brink of falling to the terrorists. I’m not sure whether this is amusing or sad.
When pushed, Farris responded with this:
Military-aged males are at the forefront of the human torrent flowing into Europe from Syria, a situation that should make us reconsider the actual popularity of war. The vast majority of Muslims are really not that into armed jihad, and for all the attention to the emotional make-up of the young men who take it up, the drama unfolding at Europe’s doorstep lets us consider the ordinary brand of courage summoned by people pushed out of their homes, and then out of their country, by the unspeakable terrors never quite communicated by words like “fighting.”
. . . Many doubtless are escaping conscription into the Syrian armed forces, which President Bashar Assad in a July speech admitted faces major manpower shortages. Almost all are a vanguard for families waiting to follow them. You don’t send a mother or a grandfather to scout a route to a new home. You send the hardiest and least vulnerable—males in their late teens to middle age.
But I want to note something else. Farris says that refugee status should only be given to those who would face “serious harm” if they were to return to their home country. First of all, their home country is in the middle of a civil war. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as “serious harm.” Secondly though, Farris himself fought to have a German homeschool family given asylum in the U.S. based on the fact that if they returned to Germany they would have to send their children to school. I’m pretty sure that if having to send your kids to school when you want to homeschool is harm enough to be granted asylum, your country being engulfed in civil war ought to be enough for you to be granted refugee status.
Today, I am sad. I am sad for France, and I am sad for the backwardness of responses like this. And I worry. Where will this lead? Where will it end? I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. Instead, all I have is a strong sense of foreboding.