Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Is it heartless and hateful to enact reasonable immigration restrictions? Is it so black-and-white? Or is there a “straw man” lurking somewhere?
A friend of mine, also a blogger, whose work I admire for the normally scholarly care she takes in citing her sources in context, posted an uncharacteristically non-scholarly commentary on President Trump’s recent Executive Order (EO) regarding immigration.
Her summary lacked her usual care in citing (and considering) original sources, and can be summed up, I think, in her emotion-based argument, quoted here, supported by a hypothetical “hard case”:
“Fellow Americans, did any of us want or envision that the new administration would mean that the nice Middle-Eastern man in our neighborhood, whom we know by name, would find himself unable to come home to his kids?”
Elsewhere in her post, she equated establishing the rule of law at the border for the protection of Americans with being hateful and fearful, citing 1 John 4:18 (“There is no fear in love… and the one who fears is not complete in love.”) as support.
She suggested that allowing free entry to all Muslims with “the narrow path that leads to life,” and suggested that those who support protecting our borders via such means as did Trump (and, though she did not include this, Obama before him and many other Presidents in our history who limited immigration at various times) with racists and haters.
Though her argument seems loving and reasonable at first glance, tugging at the heart-strings (thus employing the full potency of such an emotion-grabbing thought-stopping mechanism tied up with some Scriptures that seem to apply to this situation), if one has read the facts of the case, one can see what she really presented was a straw man argument based on black-and-white thinking.
No middle ground.
Not unlike many of the protests presented by many others, just now.
No tolerance for nuance, other points of view, the “work in progress” that defines even the best effort to rule with compassion and prudence.
And, of course, one also realizes my friend neglected the other “emotional cases” of what really does happen (no hypotheticals) in a nation that does NOT secure its borders to people whose objective is not assimilation, but destruction based on their, in this case, religious ideology that mandates conquering a nation by murdering “infidels,” (after a careful “soft” take over).
(Ah, I miss my friend’s normal care when it comes to analysis…and I’m a little disappointed…)
But back to my response: what she presents, again, is a classic straw man fallacy. And, I fear, in the minds and hearts of many who have either been convinced by the power of emotions or by the power of political spin, many, many people are right in line behind her. Not so good for the nation.
We are a compassionate people, to be sure. America sends the most missionaries, foreign aid, and just love to others in need, though her sins be many with regard to the downside of interventions.
However, there is a compassion, a pity that is toxic.
The compassionate can be very easy to exploit by those who know just how to silence them by ginning up a false guilt in the minds of the compassionate ones in order to stop critical thinking and reasonable protest. Thus, compassionate people need to be on guard.
Additionally, it is necessary to stop the evil that not only announces itself but also illustrates its point.
There is a quote that applies well, here:
“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”–Maya Angelou
There are those who will be justifiably detained at our borders (and yes, might look like needy refugees or lovely family men or students) who have already cited chapter and verse of justification for murdering “infidels,” and by illustration, they have already murdered on our soil. They have proved their belief system.
As Angelou points out, it is advisable to believe them.
Even though their numbers be few, such as the few dozen actually detained and questioned after the new travelers’ restrictions became law.
Angelou’s perspective also saves lives–not only yours and mine but also those nice Muslim neighbors next door, and closer to my experience, all of my international students from several Muslim-majority nations (including some on the list) whom I love, and who are here to learn English, get their degrees in engineering, business, and other majors so that they can complete their Citizenship process and/or go back home and create a life for themselves and their families.
And who do NOT agree with the ideology of the very few of their culture who are “radicalized” with intent to destroy.
But even the non-radicalized, good citizens among them have not been able to stop the few who continue to follow the path of destruction.
So I decided to answer my friend’s basic question, bolded above.
No, my friend, I certainly did not envision what you suggest.
But if one sifts down to the actual words and actual numbers of the Executive Order that on the first day caused the detention of not some 325,000 travelers/refugees cited by media sources as if this were the total, but only 109 on various watch lists most of whom were later released after careful questioning an entirely different analysis emerges.
A calmer one, I hope, and less subject to emotionalism, balanced with reason.
An analysis based on the rule of law and the right of the American President, whomever he is, to protect Americans from the threat of terror, home and abroad (one of his Constitutional obligations).
Yes, for a few dozen people, this meant the inconvenience of extra questioning and what vetting measures have been left intact at our broken borders and it can be well argued that there should have been a bit more time to prep the TSA agents, and others involved, but even just these initial measures to restrain terrorists can calm fears (would that be love, too?) and quell riots (more love?).
(Side note: interestingly, though it did seem a fast decision to all of us on the outside of the EO situation room, the protesters’ responses were equally as fast here, there, and everywhere. One might think there was also some PDQ logistical work on that end of it, too, but that’s a topic for another post).
But, friend, you also bring up Jesus. What would HE suggest?
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?–THE REST OF THE SCRIPTURES
Would He love immigrants?
Would He recognize that the nice family next door (and my nice students) are NOT the radicalized few of their shared religious system?
Would He pray for them and share the true Gospel of peace and salvation in word and deed?
Would He ALSO love those who might be put in harm’s way–shot, beheaded, terrorized–should the President fail his oath to protect Americans from “all dangers at home and abroad”?
In my view, Jesus cares equally for them and would “do” something for them too.
Jesus didn’t only talk about love; He also warned about danger AND He advised protecting ourselves–which is also loving.
Jesus knew we would be in danger–NOT by the violence of “flesh and blood,” necessarily (but perhaps–consider those martyred), but by the evil intent of Principalities and Powers, meaning, Satan and his minions, the ultimate destructive force that never means any kind of good despite the amount of love, compassion, kindness, and generosity extended to its representatives in the flesh–whomever they may be–on both sides of the planet and of the political aisle.
When put in doubt by the words of pretty potent persuaders (such as those we normally admire for their reasoned discourse), we must also keep those other Scriptures in mind that advise us to be prudent and on guard. Here are a few:
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17);
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1);
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
And at all times, we are well advised to…
“10 (be) strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against [a]flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 [b]in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Evil is real, my friend and my friends. We ignore this to our destruction. But in the full Gospel message, we are not without hope and strength and “weapons” that may not seem kind or compassionate to some, but are salvation for those who employ them.
Obama wasn’t perfect when he instituted immigration restrictions, nor is Trump.
But they were doing their job as best they could.
Believing straw man arguments will only delay our protection–and aid the true enemy of us all. An enemy that comes in all sizes, shapes, races, colors, and creeds.
And he is ALWAYS up to no good.
A few resources the reader might find of interest:
For an analysis of the EO that includes some of the “work in progress” issues: https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-order-muslims/514844/
And the original Exutive Order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/25/executive-order-border-security-and-immigration-enforcement-improvements