This nation springs from an idea, unlike any idea before us. We are copied in only a handful of places elsewhere on the planet. A nation of free people can govern themselves and provide for the greater good. We are a nation of settlers, refugees, outcasts, persecuted, abandoned and enslaved peoples. Science shows that even the Native Americans came to this land from Asia. Our fathers and forefathers came to this country to escape from where they were, or they were brought to his country by slave traders. We have been improved and the ideals of our nation built on by waves of immigrants. Some would condemn our past, but as much as they would seek to undo it they can’t. We can condemn what has been, but that seems to serve only one purpose, to divide society for some larger purpose and place the blame on inequity on things beyond today’s ability to correct.
So now we come to another crossroad in our nation. A great debate on the acceptance of yet another group of refugees. We seem to forget that we have this debate every time a new people comes to this idea we call the United States. We had it when the Irish came, the Germans, the Poles, Scandinavians, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Indians, the Pakistani, the Jews, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and now the Syrians. In the 1930’s as the Jews fled the Nazi German persecution, this nation went through the same debate, denying immigration to hundreds of thousands, and as a result condemning them to the death camps.
In the past we would assimilate the cultures, taking a bit of theirs and adding a bit our ours to form a melting pot where ideas were spawned, industry created, and commerce flourished as they become a part of the greater whole. Now we seem determined that each culture will bring their unique customs and maintain them as individual entities within a fractured greater society. The real question before us then is if we allow in the refugees from Syria and the Middle East will they come with the hope of making for themselves a better life in the model that has been the United States, or will they come with the intent of bringing their existing social structure and imposing it upon those who welcome them?
It must be understood the uncertain answer to that question is what lies in the heart of the public debate. Despite the rhetoric of the President, despite the inflammatory statements of the far right, for most -- it is the question of assimilation or differentiation that lies at the heart of the concerns.
Of course, this question is influenced and shaped by the acts of terror that are in the news or past acts of terror from individuals who’ve been welcomed into our society only to turn against it. For example, the Tsarnaev brothers of the Boston Marathon Bombing, or Major Nidel Hasan who murdered 13 and wounded 30 others in Fort Hood Texas.
A by-product of this debate will undoubtedly be yet another chip from the bedrock freedoms this nation was built on, and now are so willingly sacrificed in the name of safety.