The Center recently published my blog "Considerations on 'Travel Bans', Extreme Vetting, and Terror", in which I spoke about the juxtaposition of two stories in the news that had me pondering their relevance to public safety and homeland security.
I addressed the difficulty of divining what is in the mind of those who intend to harm the United States and the repercussions of that difficulty where "extreme vetting" is concerned, and why the Trump executive order on visa scrutiny for eight selected countries (six of which are majority-Muslim) is helpful but not a panacea.
My thoughts inevitably led me to comment on the often-unspoken-of elephant in the room, having to do with trying to distinguish between Muslims who assimilate well into our society and those who won't or can't.
No sooner had my blog been posted than someone commented on the Center's webpage. He said, in part, "Quite the statement from a man who doesn't have all of the answers. Perhaps this writer can remove the hate-colored glasses for once and start to look inwards for real answers, a refugee from Syria escaping civil war is hardly the sick puppy you're led to believe." He went on to excoriate the deranged native-born individuals who have themselves engaged in horrific acts involving mass murder and suggested that they, not refugees, pose the real threat to American society.
I had initially thought to ignore the commentary; such responses are sometimes par for the course, and an inevitability when you address hot-button issues such as immigration and religion. But I've changed my mind.
I have nothing to say to this individual or anyone else with regard to the acts of mass violence perpetrated by native-born citizens such as those at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and elsewhere. I understand that it is a social issue that needs to be confronted in some way, shape, or form, but it's entirely outside the scope of my work and what the Center exists to address: immigration in its many forms, both beneficial and problematic. My words on the issue he raises mean nothing, but, on the other hand, his raising that issue doesn't vitiate or dispel the serious issues of immigration and assimilation that I raised.
Most significantly, I am unwilling to accept being lumped into the "hate colored glasses" category simply because my views seem to be polar opposites from the commenter's. I reject that pernicious label out of hand. That is precisely what is wrong with the dialogue involving immigration issues.
When one holds views such as mine — which really and truly are more centrist than the commenter apparently gives me credit for — we are excoriated as racist or xenophobic by people holding different views, as a way of shutting us down and trying to dominate the debate. Ironically, I note that the commenter's email address is connected with the University of Southern California. Aren't our institutions of learning supposed to be models of free speech?
In thinking about the commenter's screed, I'm reminded of some of the words of George Orwell, who understood the value of words, and free speech, and debate. Three in particular come to mind:
- "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
- "So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot."
- "Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."
So, while I acknowledge the right of the commenter to make whatever remarks he wishes, I cannot take seriously anyone who refuses to engage in a debate or dialogue on the merits and chooses instead to deal solely in ad hominem arguments laced with pejoratives. The discussion is too important to be silenced by the thought police.