Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The New Know Nothings

Those of us lucky enough to study pre-revisionist US History are familiar with the Know Nothing Party of the mid-1800's.  The party sprung up among Protestants in the East in response to an influx of European immigrants coming to America and concerns that they would "fundamentally change the country".  Kind of sounds familiar doesn't it?  As members of Congress and governors across the US can't get in front of microphones fast enough to denounce plans to settle legal refugees from Syria here.

On the face of it, a desire to keep out potential ISIS operatives hiding amongst the refugees is a valid argument.  But perhaps House Speaker Paul Ryan--who wants a "pause" in the Syrian refugee resettlement program--should consider that the Know Nothings wanted to keep his Irish ancestors out of the country out of fear their Catholicism would lead to greater Papal influence over the US.  Congressman Glenn Grotheman--who wonders why people seeking peace and freedom "would even want to come here"--should recall that his German ancestors who came over in the 19th Century contained more than a few Marxists.  So many, in fact, that the Mecca of German-American culture, Milwaukee, elected Socialists to City Hall for nearly 70-years.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Italian ancestors likely came over with mafiosos.  The Jewish ancestors of Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Senator Russ Feingold were feared to be Communists and Bolsheviks.  All "concerns" that gave rise to the Know Nothings and their anti-immigrant platform.

What is being lost in all of the post-Paris-attacks hysteria is that the Syrian refugees--and really all Muslims that come to the US to escape the barbarism of ISIS, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Taliban--could be very valuable allies in the fight against those same enemies.  Those groups recruit on the "the West hates us" mentality.  What would make us look less hateful than actually opening our arms to those who turn their back on radicalism?  And if those refugees eventually return home--or at least stay in contact with families in their homelands--they can tell everyone over there that we Americans aren't that bad.

If anything, Republicans should be embracing Muslim refugees like Democrats have embraced the illegal immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America--as they share some of the same cultural values.  Muslims do not go into debt.  They would be horribly offended by the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus.  And Liberal heads would probably explode when faced with the quandary of Muslim families coming to local school boards to complain about their daughters having to use bathrooms with people that have penises--but say they are actually women.  Which "persecuted" people do you side with on that one?

If we are going to go back to our high school American History days, perhaps a field trip to the Statue of Liberty--that wonderful gift from France--is in order for everyone forming the New Know Nothing Party so we can read Emma Lazarus's poem at the base:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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