Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2001 / 19 Kislev, 5762
The 1993 attempt to topple the World Trade Center and the later plot to blow up the Holland Tunnel and other landmarks failed to alert us to a change in the nature of immigrant attitudes among some who arrived here from hostile Muslim countries. We have been afraid even to suggest that we might do well to rethink how we handled such immigration. We still are, for fear of hearing about the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, anti-Semitic Nazi police and anti-black racism. In short, our better judgment has been held hostage by the darker sides of history here and in Europe.
People seem, however, to have forgotten that there is nothing in the Constitution that says people in foreign countries have the absolute right to immigrate into America. People also forget that, unlike totalitarian countries where rights removed remain removed, our country always reins itself back in. We always get it back together and return to normal.
We should never take any emergency measures lightly, especially if they involve our remarkably expansive civil liberties. We should never forget that those willing to defend those liberties are of inarguable importance to our national discourse.
But we also need to hear other points of view. We were too smug for too long, too unwilling to understand what all adults should know, namely this: Terrorist problems do not just go away because a few people are captured.
It should no longer be easy to immigrate into this country from a hostile land. We should not be bullied into opening our gates and risking the lives of thousands just because many will become upset if we change our policy and scrutinize more closely the immigrants we allow in.
I have heard Arab students argue that the most dangerous terrorist would eat pork, get drunk, even use drugs, if that allowed him to dissolve into America. And? It should be very hard for him to cross our borders, too.
One might argue that Sicilians, Russian Jews, Asians and West Indians had gangsters among them. That's still different. Like Islamic terrorists, the gangsters were a very small minority among their people, not at all representative. Unlike terrorists, however, their wish was to become criminally successful in this country, not murder thousands.
That is how it is. Once we face that fact, our policies will not be
cruel --- they will express the kind of enlightenment that the smell
of burning flesh on Sept. 11 made easily
JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy
of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994, Always in Pursuit: Fresh American
Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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