Saturday, March 12, 2016

If I Die a Horrific, Untimely Death...

There have been various reports and comments on claims that the FBI is unable to vet refugees coming from Syria, leaving us vulnerable to infiltration by ISIS. These are part of a larger debate about what we must do to stop terrorism, a debate that often begins with the assertion that if we do not implement a certain policy, we will be powerless to avert another ghastly terrorist attack. Let us lay aside our analytic doubts, and assume this assertion is true. Let us further assume that I would be among the casualties of such an attack.

If I die a horrific, untimely death at the hands of terrorists, let me go on record as having made a few requests. Do not use my death as a justification to expel refugees from our country or turn back those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" who have not yet reached our shores.  (I rather doubt the Mother of Exiles would approve.)  Although highway accidents are far more deadly than terrorists, no one has yet called for the abolition of highways. Let us treat the afflicted of this world at least as well as our roads.

Although hypothetical, I do not take this position lightly. I have a wife and children to care for; I would not want to see them widowed and orphaned, even in a thought experiment. But I do not think I could look them in the eye and tell them, "I am here, able to love and serve you each day, because we have denied the demands of solidarity on the basis of fear (and a fear which is probably much overstated at that)." My children need a father, but they do not need a cowardly one. If I am willing to take up arms in defense of my country - and I am, should it truly come to that - I should also be willing to lay down my life while doing more prosaic things.

So if I die a horrific, untimely death, please pray for my immortal soul, bring to justice my killers, and leave the refugees alone.

Photo credit: The UNODC website.

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