Smart people saying smart things (11.20)

Smart people saying smart things (11.20) November 20, 2015

The Economist, “Yearning to breathe free”

Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and international intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.

Refugee resettlement is the least likely route for potential terrorists, says Kathleen Newland at the Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank.

Dahlia Lithwick and Laurel Reiman Henneman, “Refugee-fearing Mayor Wants to Round Them Up”

Any student of FDR understands that the lesson of the Japanese internment camps is that fear makes us stupid and careless. Lives were ruined by intemperate and punitive racial policies that led to mass detention of those who bore the scantest racial connection to our enemies. At first blush we suspected that [Roanoke, Virginia, Mayor David] Bowers was simply learning his constitutional history from one of those Texas textbooks that rewrites epic moral failures as valorous events. But as bad as FDR’s internment order was, the enduring moral sin of the internment camps was that the Supreme Court had a chance to correct the mistake — and opted not to. That decision, as a technical matter, remains good law today.

Bowers is seemingly not alone in his conviction that the lesson of Korematsu v. United States — the Supreme Court’s massive failure to reverse and condemn FDR’s error — is that penning in those who look like your attackers is and was a tremendous idea that served the nation well. Luckily, Korematsu itself offers contemporaneous predictions, in the form of its eloquent dissenting opinions, that someday, history would be ashamed.

George Takei, on Facebook

Mayor Bowers, one of the reasons I am telling our story on Broadway eight times a week in Allegiance is because of people like you. You who hold a position of authority and power, but you demonstrably have failed to learn the most basic of American civics or history lessons. So Mayor Bowers, I am officially inviting you to come see our show, as my personal guest. Perhaps you, too, will come away with more compassion and understanding.

Adam Kotsko, “Racism and the refugee problem”

Note that I didn’t say a more “rational” country or use any other vague and formalistic word. Yes, people lack logical reasoning and long-term thinking on this issue, but it’s not like they had a spontaneous brain-fart — it’s racism that’s deluding them. Only extreme racism could make you think that people’s shared ethnic background would create a bond of loyalty that transcends murder, rape, destruction of homes and livelihoods, etc.

Note also that I didn’t say a “kinder” or “nicer” country. Yes, people are being exceptionally heartless, but again, it’s not some random moral failing on the part of individuals. Racism is what makes people see refugees as less worthy of concern, just as it’s what makes people inclined to explain away the murder of unarmed blacks by police. Only racist logic could make the extremely remote possibility of an ISIS “sleeper” sneaking in among the refugees into an excuse to deny thousands of people the chance to rebuild a livable life.


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