Ideals Require Courage

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. Anne Frank

Republican presidential candidates should heed Anne Frank.

The terrorist attacks in Paris triggered a reality show that featured Republican presidential candidates in the midst of a group panic attack.

“This is a clash of civilizations,” incorrectly asserted the too-slick Rubio.

“Only let Christians in,” bawled the passive Bush and scary Cruz.

“Close America’s door to orphaned toddlers from Syria,” roared the bully Christie.

“Close the Mosques,” bellowed the hollow-man Trump who thinks requiring Muslims to wear an identification card is a good idea.

Giving neurosurgeons a bad name, Ben Carson compared Muslims to “mad dogs.”

“No refugees can come to our states,” proclaimed unlawful and “the sky is falling” Republican governors (and one democrat). They whined in mass when President Obama called them “un-American.”

And President Obama’s opinion: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends…our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”

I’m with the president.

For those of us fearful of a terrorist from Syria coming into the United States as a refugee, I quote from the Economist:

“Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and International intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.”

I don’t like demagogues for leaders or politicians who fear-monger and demonize others to justify going against our values. Heed Voltaire’s observation: “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

I don’t like leaders who try to make political points by refusing the helpless and powerless—most of them women and children.

I like my president and congressional leaders to be calm, deliberate, and thoughtful. I also like my leaders to be courageous, compassionate and clear thinking. Leaders stay true to long-held American values in the toughest of times and this is not one of America’s toughest times. Real leaders protect the powerless and helpless and women and children.

The attacks in Paris gave us a window into ourselves and those who aspire to lead America into the future.

Do we want a president with an apocalyptic world view who loses his nerve in a crisis and shoots before he aims? Do we want to lose our humanity?

Republican presidential candidates failed the real-time test of presidential leadership: Their eagerness to run from American values to get votes disqualifies them as serious presidential candidates.

Terrorist attacks scare us. That’s understandable. But let’s not get hysterical and let fear bring out the worst in us and allow the terrorists to win. We defeat the terrorists with courage and adherence to America’s history and core values. What will be become of us as a nation if at the first moment of fear we throw out our values and fall-apart?

A friend wrote: “If we set policy based in fear we fail. If we set policy based on our values, we redeem ourselves. Nothing less than our identity as a nation is a stake.”

“The vote by the House of Representatives effectively to slam the door on Syrian refugees was the crassest kind of political grandstanding, scapegoating some of the world’s most vulnerable people to score political points.” Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, Nov. 22, 2015