What really makes the US exceptional

I know I’ve been horrible about posting on our blog, but I wanted to respond to your reactions to the San Bernardino coverage.

I’m reminded of FDR’s famous quote, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I know, cliché, right? But what we’re seeing lately illustrates its timeliness. What we become when we react to terror has always been more dangerous, more debilitating, than the acts themselves. The Japanese internment camps are long over, but there’s no legal framework preventing that from happening again. Osama bin Laden may be dead and gone, but the Patriot Act and the modern surveillance state are as strong as ever, and support for torture remains high among Americans.

Terrorism exists to create fear. As Chancellor and former Sec. of Defense Robert Gates said, it’s weapon of the weak against the strong. I think we become weaker — less than ourselves — if we give in to that fear. And I think banning Syrian and Iraqi refugees (or all Muslims) or deporting 11 million illegal immigrants would be doing just that. It isn’t just that it’s overkill as a policy: it’s not who we are. As a certain Emmy award winning writer points out, there are very few things left that make the United States truly, positively stand out in the world.

But the sheer number of people we’ve welcomed, assimilated, conscripted, enriched, uplifted, and relied upon makes us truly exceptional. If you are a Muslim in America and you go to school or start a business or pay taxes or join the military or exercise your freedom of speech or go to a mosque or join the PTA or eat a goddamn slice of pizza, you are making this country exceptional. My rights are your rights, and anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves.


1 Comment

  1. Pingback: My America | A Father and Son Converse...

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