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Fox: When considering refugees, it’s time to do the right thing

dfox • Updated Nov 19, 2015 at 11:29 PM

Make no mistake about it: now is the ideal time for someone on the Republican side of Tennessee’s state legislature to show some leadership and forethought.

I speak directly to Wilson County’s delegation — Sen. Mae Beavers and Reps. Mark Pody and Susan Lynn — and remind them it is their chance, either as individuals or collectively, to break through past the noise gripping the state’s GOP and demand Gov. Bill Haslam reconsider asking that Syrian refugees not be placed in our state.

Tennesseans pride themselves on the state’s nickname, “The Volunteer State.” But is that moniker still appropriate?

This debate is about helping 10,000 Syrian refugees escape the carnage and destructive power of the Islamic State, which was on display for the world to see last week during seven different attacks in Paris. (If that sounds like a big number, keep in mind it’s very small compared to our allies. France is taking 30,000, even after the Paris attacks.)

If we, while watching television in Wilson County, are repulsed by the images we see from thousands of miles away, imagine dealing with ISIS up close and personal. Imagine for a moment battling for survival every single day.

We are talking about families caught between a four-way civil war in Syria. The Syrian government, the Syrian rebels, the Kurds and ISIS. It is a brutally horrible way to live, especially when ISIS is bent on genocide.

As a country, we’ve been down this road before. In 1938, roughly two-thirds of this country thought it would be a mistake to let Jewish children into this country. There really is no telling how many lives could have been saved if this country had reconsidered that awful decision.

We haven’t always been this way. We have had many war refugees enter the country over the years. During and after the Vietnam War, we had many people come to this country. We had many people from Cuba and the Soviet Union flee to this country during the height of the Cold War. In fact, one was Rafael Cruz, whose son, Ted, is a Republican candidate for the Presidency.

Break the mold. Speak up. Fight the power of fear.

Yes, we have people here who desperately need help, too. We need to help them, too. But the notion that helping homeless veterans and helping Syrian refugees is mutually exclusive and we must pick between the two groups is foolish. You can’t excuse mistreatment of one group by citing the mistreatment of another group.

That’s not how great countries are supposed to work.

Moreover, turning our collective backs on these people basically does ISIS’ work for it. The ISIS narrative is the West will always be at war with Islam, and that the refugees — people ISIS considers traitors to its caliphate — will be treated poorly by the United States and other countries.

ISIS is smart. We need to be smarter. That’s where you three can lead and set a shining example that compassion and pragmatism can work hand-in-hand:

You can educate people and let them know the relocation for and vetting of refugees is a two-year process, and not everyone gets in.

You can speak out against the manufactured hysteria about Islam in middle-school textbooks.

You can — and should — go nose-to-nose with charlatans like Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and remind him relocating existing Syrian refugees is a horribly inhumane idea.

You need to remind everybody to take a deep breath and that we’re going to be OK.

You need to lead.  All three of you.

Humanity should always beat inhumanity. Unity should always trump division. Love should always conquer hate. But just like freedom isn’t free, humanity, unity and love don’t automatically get to take a victory lap. We have to work hard to make sure they prevail. 

Sometimes, that hard work involves breaking past political divides to do the right thing. And in this case, it’s a moral imperative.

 Fox is news editor of The Lebanon Democrat. Email him at dfox@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

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