Muftic: We need leadership that extolls our values in crisis
Thanksgiving is celebrated with remembrance of the Pilgrims founding their colony and surviving. They were, after all, our first refugee/immigrants from tyranny. Other than Columbus Day, we celebrate few others who arrived later. We forget that waves of immigrants were often met with scorn, prejudice, or rejection based on fear that they were Papists or socialists or had different traditions. Eventually we absorbed them into the American culture and they embraced our values.
Ambitious politicians have exploited fear to fuel their rise to power, especially in times of threats from abroad. Fear is a powerful force that is the enemy of rational action. Unfortunately, fear sometimes caused us to commit acts contrary to ideals, laws, and Constitution. Worst of all, because of fear, we may be led to strike out blindly only to repeat failed strategies.
To draw on Franklin Roosevelt’s oft quoted words:” We have nothing to fear but fear itself”’, we need leadership that does not deny the feelings of fear nor spooks the herd to panic and bolt over the cliff. We need leadership that addresses and reassures public concerns, and devises plausible, workable strategies weighed against possible counter-productive actions. That is the rational approach; but we are not getting that from either side of the aisle.
We have some examples of what fear can do. We have hung our heads in shame, as we did after our realization of the injustice we did to internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Fear of weapons of mass destruction was hyped to the public by some members of the Bush administration post 9/11 to motivate support for the ill-fated invasion and occupation of Iraq. Invasion and occupation of Iraq upset the balance of power, gave rise to Iran’s regional domination, and created a backlash that gave birth to ISIS and the new generation of 20 something terrorists behind the Paris attacks.
President Obama was highly criticized for his “tone” in response to the Paris events. He could have reassured scared Americans by indicating he understood their fears as Roosevelt did. He could have announced he would increase the amount and intensity of what he was already doing. His strategy mostly resembled his critics ’proposals, anyway. He did not. Instead, he played down the threat and derided his critics. That made him appear disconnected from the public and reality and he is suffering in the polls. Fortunately for him he is not up for re-election.
However, sometimes national interests or basic American values may not be in sync with public opinion. Often forgotten was that the majority of public opinion was opposed to taking in Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Pres. Roosevelt, looking at a third term run, read the polls. Boatloads of the refugees were turned away from the US. We need leadership that extolls our values and applies them to current situations even if it is not momentarily popular or vote getting.
Stampeding the public to start fascist-like registration lists of all US Muslims, or only to admit Christian immigrants in defiance of our Constitution, would fulfill the goal of ISIS, to realize their religious destiny of a war between the West and Islam, and it would serve the terrorists as a recruiting tool.
For more, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com
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