Donald Trump’s call to prevent all Muslims from entering the United States sends chills up my spine. While his statement resonants with some who rightly fear more attacks from radical Islamic terrorists, it should put fear into anyone who understands the history of religious and ethnic persecution. Whenever a government targets a group for “special treatment,” the end result is not always good.
The internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II is one of the saddest chapters in American history. Fear of more Japanese attacks on the American West Coast, coupled with a fear of foreigners, prompted the rounding up of many loyal American citizens into camps till war’s end. This was done in spite of the service of many Japanese Americans in the armed forces, fighting against the Imperial Japanese Army. The fear of people who are different from the native or majority population historically results in pogroms, holocausts and inquisitions. When the power to single out a group for inspection is put into the hands of the government, it is time to beware.
This does not preclude sensible investigation of people, including American citizens, who travel to terrorist regions and seek to return home. It does not prevent prudent surveillance to track the activity of people residing in America who engage in behavior of a combatant. It does not disregard the need for a comprehensive immigration policy to protect and guard both the nation’s borders and regulate immigration according to stated national law and policy. The Constitution of the United States, and the freedoms it guarantees, is not a license for the nation’s enemies to infiltrate and attack law-abiding citizens and upset the peace of the republic.
But a bold statement by a candidate for the nation’s highest office to ban Muslims for entering is a wakeup call to the serious condition of both American leadership and public sentiment. People are afraid. They are afraid of the next attack and how many unknown terrorists reside in our cities and towns. But most of all I see that people fear there is a breakdown in the nation’s ability to preserve and protect. There is real concern of the ability of the government to grasp the serious threat and do something. This is a different feeling than just anger, frustration or normal political debate. Many Americans feel its leadership is playing politics with national security. This represents a significant threat to morale.
When fear controls a nation’s agenda, unintended consequences occur. I fear that if you put a ban on one religion, there is nothing to prevent a ban on another religion that for a moment in the public eye becomes suspicious, subversive or politically incorrect. Once a precedent is set it can be used against any group. Banning Muslims could lead to banning, censoring or targeting in some form any other groups deemed undesirable. Stop and think about this. America is about to cross into dark territory.