I usually write something frothy around the holidays, but the terrible events in Beirut and Paris and now in a women’s clinic in Colorado have turned the so-called “season of light” into something dark and foreboding.
Contributing to the toxic atmosphere have been comments from politicians that incite violence, scapegoat refugees and spread prejudice and xenophobia. That includes Carly Fiorina’s deliberate, vicious lies about Planned Parenthood; Ben Carson’s reference to Syrian refugees as “dogs” from whom we have to remove the “rabid” element; and Donald Trump’s scurrilous description of Mexicans as criminals and rapists.
We are right to be concerned about the growing threat from ISIS, but we should be equally concerned about the Taliban-like rantings of our own political leaders. Attacking our government as incapable of screening refugees (when in fact multiple agencies spend up to two years vetting individuals) and characterizing desperate victims fleeing ISIS terror as would-be terrorists is utterly counterproductive.
We have demonized refugees and immigrants during many crises in the past and have always come to regret our behavior.
In the 1930s and 1940s we shut the door to Jews fleeing Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. This was due to a prevailing anti-Semitism among the public (registered in many polls) and to the blatant anti-Semitic views of administrators in our State Department and Visa Division. Memos to President Franklin Roosevelt also cited fear of “penetration of German agents” as rationale for keeping Jews out.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt signed an executive order to intern Japanese-Americans, most of them U.S. citizens. More than 120,000 people were deprived of due process, shorn of their goods and property and imprisoned in isolated camps patrolled by armed guards. The census bureau provided the demographic data used to locate and lock up these innocent people.
While their families suffered in camps, thousands of Japanese-Americans won distinction fighting against the Nazis in the 442nd Infantry Regiment. Of the 14,000 men who served, 9,486 received Purple Hearts, 560 won Silver Stars for valor and 21 won our highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
Today, many Mexicans and other Latinos new to the United States join the Armed Forces as a means to earn citizenship. The people demeaned by Donald Trump are actually playing an outsize role in the defense of our country.
As for Planned Parenthood, in the past 38 years, 10 doctors, clinic personnel or patients have been assassinated. Other acts of violence include: 26 attempted murders; 42 bombings; 182 arson attacks; 199 assaults; 1,507 incidents of vandalism; 80 acid attacks; and 983 death threats or stalking incidents.
Women who go to Planned Parenthood clinics for health services and birth control are routinely harassed by screaming crowds of anti-abortion zealots. In this context it is a travesty that the media fails to identify the latest attack as an act of domestic terrorism. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did the right thing by ordering state police to protect Planned Parenthood clinics in that state.
While we deplore the misogynist cruelty of ISIS and the Taliban abroad, we must fight the growing terrorism against women here at home.
For end-of-year charitable donations, I recommend giving to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin at www.ppwi.org and the United Nations Refugee agency at www.unhcr.org. Your donations will support critical services and make an important political statement in these times of domestic and international terrorism.