With the 45th Presidential Inauguration (and the many protests that came with it) behind us, talk of religious bans, forceful separation of immigrant families, and the contested border wall will likely continue to permeate political discussion. The Left’s response to the refugee crisis in particular has successfully created the impression that those who welcome “outsiders” without reservations are good, kind, and compassionate. Those who do not, naturally, are hateful xenophobes with irrational, unfounded fears of “the other.”
But does having a soft spot for the state-less necessarily entail having a blind spot when it comes to the hard reality of integrating thousands of culturally inimical foreigners into our democratic republic? Is it really selfish and bigoted to raise questions concerning national security and ideology? For open-borders liberals, the answer to both of these questions seems to be “yes.”
The Left’s tendency to romanticize “exotic” others reflects a childlike naiveté that is at once noble, deeply troubling, and patronizing. On one hand, it’s crucial to acknowledge the dignity of fellow human beings and care for the needy to the degree that an individual or country is able. On the other hand, to say that no outsiders pose a threat is just foolish and dishonest. This inconvenient truth is completely lost on bleeding-heart liberals.
The New York Times recently published a beautifully written essay by Amanda Avutu titled “From Syria, With Love.” The piece tells the story of Avutu’s heartwarming encounter with a family of Syrian refugees who moved into her neighborhood:
At first, I knew only that a family of refugees were coming to our Atlanta neighborhood. I had seen a community Facebook post asking for help cleaning the apartment they would use, and I volunteered my family for the effort.
Secretly, irrationally, I already loved them. I loved them the way you love a future spouse you imagine for yourself, or how you love your children before they take root in your body and heart. These were people searching for safety, much as my Hungarian ancestors had tried to do in the 1930s before they were taken to concentration camps.
As the family of four’s move-in date neared, Avutu began reaching out to people in her community for dry goods, household items, and school supplies to offer them upon their arrival.
The packages that began arriving on my porch daily were a salve protecting me from the increasing ugliness of the presidential campaign. “I can’t hear you,” I whispered as my PayPal account grew with money earmarked for food, diversions and educational materials.
One donation labeled “For our Syrian friends” was blocked as suspicious, and my heart raged. Then the donor tried “For our friends,” and the donation sailed through. “We’re stepping over you,” I whispered to the electronic gatekeepers.
Avutu goes on to describe her cross-cultural experience of meeting the family, helping them adjust to life in America, and learning more about the customs and traditions of Syria. The essay as a whole is a lovely testimony to the importance of community and charity.
Stories like Avutu’s should be told, but too often these accounts are invoked by the Left as a way to dismiss any legitimate concerns Americans might have regarding illegal immigration and the refugee crisis.
The Left’s curious incuriosity when it comes to these issues is reflective of the “noble savage” mindset, which views non-Westerners as simpler, weaker, more innocent and impressionable beings in need of guidance and civilizing from educated Western elites. Take, for example, the column’s accompanying illustration art: A massive white hand reaching out to tiny Middle Eastern men and women climbing aboard the large fingers, to safety.
This type of subtle bigotry often escapes liberals, many of whom truly do wish to help. But whether they realize it or not, the Left’s blind devotion and mission for refugees is reminiscent of President Theodore Roosevelt’s imperialistic “white man’s burden” approach to foreign policy. The phrase originates from British novelist Rudyard Kipling’s 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands,” which reads, in part:
Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child
Take up the White Man’s burden
Condescending? Yes. Dignifying? Not so much.
President Obama announced in September 2015 that America would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year. In August 2016, the State Department announced that the Obama administration had met its goal, and that the number would likely grow by another 2,000 before 2017.
Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz, who has written extensively on the Obama administration’s response to the Middle Eastern refugee crisis, notes the challenge of vetting individuals from countries where radical Islam is the norm, not the exception:
As Horowitz points out, “it doesn’t take many bad apples to wreak havoc on our homeland.”
“We are entreated to sob stories and highbrow rhetoric about our obligations to the world,” he continues, “but what about the one authentic obligation of the federal government to secure the sovereignty of the people and the states?”
Those who genuinely care about human rights and protecting the marginalized should be troubled by the fact that our country has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees while failing to help religious minorities in the Middle East escape persecution. Horowitz described this concern back in August:
What does the Left have to say about these religious minorities? Where’s their dignity? There is absolutely no logic or justification for such an extreme imbalance. Further, it is dangerous and reckless to ignore the fact that accepting refugees from countries where extremist, anti-Western ideology runs deep poses a threat to national security. We’ve seen this horror movie before. In fact, America need only look to her friends in Germany, Belgium, France, and all throughout Europe to see what happens when this reality is overlooked.
The daily horrors that occur across the Atlantic are unspeakable, and all the more tragic considering just how avoidable these societal crises nearing existential levels truly are. Horowitz continues:
Many on the Left just don’t understand how conservative concerns about immigration could be formed by anything but ignorance and hate. But in order to love our neighbors well, it is crucial to understand that compassion and truth aren’t incompatible.
Is it right to dismiss Amada Avutu’s heartwarming tale of her Syrian friends? Certainly not. But it’s perfectly reasonable — nay, crucial and responsible — to favor domestic policies that scrutinize and vet prospective newcomers from certain parts of the world with greater care. Not all Middle Eastern Muslims are terrorists, but most all terrorists in the West are Muslims. That is not “bigotry,” that is fact.
The Left loves to fall back on the “tiny percentage” argument — of course, we know that decent human beings outnumber criminals — but that doesn’t account for such a tiny part of the population having a virtual monopoly on religiously motivated terrorism. Moreover, it is intellectually dishonest, as liberals would never afford the same understanding and let’s-not-generalize logic to any terrorist acts from the “Right” (that is made abundantly clear from perpetual mentions of the Westboro Baptist Church — an extremely offensive yet harmless group of a couple dozen members — when trying to manufacture examples of right-wing, “Christian” extremists).
Acts of kindness and charity are vital elements of a civil, moral society. But these good deeds are cancelled out when we fail to address the very things that threaten them (i.e. radical ideologies and the suicidal political correctness that’s inextricably linked to their flourishing).
Think of it another way: We “vet” the people we allow into our own homes all the time. Even though most strangers are harmless, you wouldn’t let just any stranger into your home at any time. It’s not hateful or rude to establish boundaries (e.g. doors, locks, security systems) in order to protect your family and the guests you do allow in. In fact, it’s foolish not to.
The Left’s response to immigration and the refugee crisis is as naïve as the person who refuses to lock his doors at night. And whether this naiveté is intentional or not, we must not mistake it for compassion or benevolence.
A subject as nuanced and complex as immigration requires a thoughtful and nuanced response. That begins by eliminating meaningless rhetoric and platitudes that mask the true risk of refugee programs, and working to develop a system that addresses the hard realities of immigration. Not all refugees are gracious guests with hearts of gold. Liberals who refuse to accept this aren’t being magnanimous — they’re being delusional. The eerie similarities between the supposed altruism and attitude of the Left and the “white man’s burden” mindset expose the sort of racism and bigotry that puts countless lives at risk.
- Guns don’t kill, European-style immigration policies do
- America NEVER voted for this type of refugee program
- Muslim refugee tells court raping children was 'culturally appropriate' in his homeland
Carly Hoilman is a Correspondent for Conservative Review. You can follow her on Twitter @CarlyHoilman.