Okay, let’s be honest. How many of you have been recently in a public place, like a shopping mall or a church, and have thought, “A terrorist could come in here, shoot the place up, and we wouldn’t have a chance.?” Similar thoughts have been on the minds of many Americans since the massacres in Paris and San Bernardino. Concern is definitely warranted, but we should be careful not to overreact.
In 2006, I went on a mission trip to Kenya with a group led by Dr. Larry Watts. It was a long flight to and from Nairobi, Kenya. The flight back to the U.S. included changing planes in Amsterdam and Detroit. (Yes, it does seem out of the way to go to Raleigh-Durham from Kenya by way of Detroit.)
As I settled in my seat for the long flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, I became a little nervous. I noticed a young man sitting across the aisle from me. Dressed casually, but neatly he had a Middle-Eastern appearance. Could he be a terrorist? He fits the profile. You know, young, Arab-looking male. I’ll have to keep an eye on him.
As the long flight continued, the lady seated in front of us dropped something out of her purse. The young man and I both reached down and helped her pick up the items she had dropped. We started talking. The young, Arab-looking man was a U.S. citizen. Not only that, he was in the U.S. military. He was stationed in Germany, and had learned that his father was very sick. He was trying to get back to his home in the Detroit area as fast as possible to see him before it was too late.
Last spring, Terri and I visited Arlington Cemetery. There you will find thousands of simple gravestones identifying those who have served this country in the military. The tombstones may have a cross on it recognizing the Christian faith of the soldier. Or there may be a Star of David for the Jewish soldier, or other symbols for other soldiers who served. There is also the crescent on gravestones for soldiers of the Muslim faith. (Yes, there are Muslims buried in Arlington Cemetery.) One tombstone reads, “Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, CPL, U.S. Army, Feb. 12, 1987-Aug. 6, 2007, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Concerning Corporal Khan, General Colin Powell commented, “He was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could go serve his country, and he gave his life.” He was twenty years old.
Since the recent terrorist attacks, people are justifiably nervous. If it can happen at an office Christmas party, it can happen anywhere. The tepid response of President Obama to those attacks have frustrated many Americans. His lack of action has led to an overreaction. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Besides being unconstitutional, Trump’s proposal is just plain wrong. You can’t base a person’s entrance into this country solely on his or her religion. Freedom of religion was one of the foundations of this country. Are we going to make you put your religion on your passport? Maybe it needs to be on your driver’s license, too? Didn’t they do something like that in Germany with the Jews?
Of course, we need to more closely examine those who are entering the U.S. from foreign countries. We may need to limit, or temporarily pause visas and immigration from countries that are terrorist hotbeds. Muslim leaders in the U.S. and worldwide need to more strongly denounce the radical Muslim faith that has led to terrorism. And the U.S. and other countries need to get serious about doing whatever it takes to get rid of ISIS completely. Individually, we need to be cautious, aware of our surroundings, and wise in protecting our families and ourselves. But don’t overreact. That young man you are so paranoid about may be a U.S. soldier on his way back home.
Fear is a great motivator. Politicians know that. It can motivate you to vote a certain way. Fear will also make you do stupid things. And you may regret it for the next four years.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.