Friday, November 20, 2015

Oh the (lack of) humanity

I can't believe we're even having this debate. More than that, I can't believe I seem to be in the minority on the issue -- and by a lot.

The issue over whether to accept Syrian refugees into the U.S. seems like it should be a foregone conclusion. People need help. We help people. Done. And done. It's practically the definition of America. We're "the good guys."

But not only does it not appear to be that simple, it would seem that those who think like me -- the minority, it would seem -- who believe that America should assist the tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free, do so at the risk of alienating ourselves, being told we don't love America (or our own children), and being called "Muslim sympathizers" as though it's bad to sympathize for the plight of the refugees.

It's for the children, of course. Not the Syrian children, mind you. Screw them. No one cares about Syrian children. But we want to protect our own children ... from Syrian children.

Many comparisons have been made this past week between 2015 and 1939.

In 1939, America turned away Jews seeking asylum in the United States. We didn't believe their concerns to be real. We were still very isolationist at the time and we didn't want to involve ourselves in affairs that weren't our responsibility.

In 2015, we're turning away Syrian refugees. We are fearful that they're Isis agents in disguise, hellbent on destroying America from within. Of course, we're far from isolationists right now but we still seem to want to act that way when it suits our so-called interests.

I'm told that's a false comparison. I'm told that in 1939, we were ignorant. But that today we know what we're doing. That we know what we're talking about. That we have very good reason to refuse entry to 10,000 people who fled their homeland because that land no longer had homes for them to go to.

A week ago, according to various news reports, a man pretending to be a Syrian refugee -- or maybe he really was a Syrian refugee ... or maybe neither of those things -- was one of the perpetrators of the horrible acts of terrorism in Paris.

As all of Facebook changed its profile picture to superimpose a French flag over their selfies, Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo urged Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to “reverse his stance on accepting Syrian refugees into Erie County." Erie County was slated to be the new home to some 300 refugees next year.

Lorigo may not have been the first to make the "refugee = potential terrorist" statement, but he was the first we heard locally. He was quickly followed by several governors and then the Niagara County Legislature, who voted Tuesday night to demand New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo work to block Syrian refugees from being allowed into New York State. Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to demand additional background checks on any refugee seeking asylum here.

All these things happened in less than a week. From the Paris attacks to Congressional legislation against Syrian refugees -- and a new issue to divide America.

I'd remind people that prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the largest terrorist attack ever committed on American soil was done so by a Niagara County native -- but I probably don't have to do that, right? It's a good thing that the rest of the country and world didn't take it out of all Niagara County natives, though, isn't it? I mean ... could you imagine if no one from Niagara County could go to Disney Land because one disgruntled sicko acted out?

And we know with 100 percent certainly that Timothy McVeigh was from Niagara County. French officials aren't even sure if the "Syrian refugee terrorist," who had a passport which said he was 25-year-old Ahmad Almohammad was Syrian. Or Ahmad Almohammad. Or 25. They do believe the passport to be fake, though.

In other words, we're banning 10,000 people from entering the country because one loon in Paris said he was in their same predicament. Ten thousand people who already have an 18-month to two-year wait to get into America now have more hoops to jump through because one guy claimed he was a Syrian refugee.

Imagine, if you will, that you're a terrorist hellbent on destroying America. Would you want to get into the "18- to 24-month wait" line? Or would you get your fake passport saying you were from another country ... not named Syria? We know Isis to be well-funded. They can get their fake passports from anywhere they want.

So again, we're denying refuge to 10,000 people based on an assumption that terrorists might use "Syrian refugee" on their resume when they can likely write any resume they wish.

Lorigo's statement frustrated me. The proclamations of 30 governors that they didn't want Syrian refugees disappointed me. But Tuesday's vote by the Niagara County Legislature sickened me. Frankly, I thought we were better than that. In fact, I thought the worst amongst us was better than that. The Facebook comments told me otherwise.

Then Thursday -- because I wasn't sick enough -- add to it all the plan by Donald Trump -- the GOP frontrunner for president -- to create a "Muslim database," force followers of the religion to carry special IDs and consider shutting down Mosques. Frankly, I'm wondering what year this is and what country I live in.

This is not the America I read about in history books. And it isn't the America I want my childrens' children to read about in history books. Be better than this. For the children. All of them

Somewhere between complaining about entitlements and declaring our president to be a "Muslim sympathizer," "the land of the free and the home of the brave" decided it isn't really interested in being either.

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Atheist cups and safe zones

Normally my columns appear on Fridays -- when they appear at all. But since I've missed several over the last 18-or-so months, I figure a make-up Tuesday column is okay.

Today I'd like to tackle the two most important issues in the world right now. No, not terrorism and poverty. The atheist cups at Starbucks ... and press being denied access to the quad at the University of Missouri.

Let's discuss the latter first since it is a much bigger deal to me as a journalist.

Mizzou students, you committed the number one faux pas of dealing with the media: You allowed the media to make themselves the story. See, about 99 percent of people who refer to themselves professionally as "press" would be classified as megalomaniacal. So when mass communications professor Melissa Click asks for help getting rid of a photojournalist -- “Hey who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? … I need some muscle over here.” -- she shifted the story from your cause of crushing racism on campus to crushing those that would oppose the media.

Advice: Don't make enemies of people who "buy ink by the barrel" -- or their digital, audio or video counterparts.

On the topic of the evil red cups at Starbucks, my advice goes to the rabid fanatical delusional "Christians" who believe the move by the coffee company is just the latest liberal maneuver in the so-called "War on Christmas." Stop. Just stop. You're giving the rest of us non-crazy Christians a bad name. You're hurting our cause.

The red-cup controversy is Venti stupid for so many reasons.

First of all, Starbucks has never had "Christmas" cups. Starting in 2009, the "holiday" cups had Christmas ornaments on them that said "wish" and "hope." The following year, they had snowflakes on them and said "stories are gifts." In 2011, they featured a sledder. 2012 was met with a snowman. Christmas ornaments again adorned the cups in 2013. Last year, they were red with swishy shapes. And finally, just plain red this year. No baby Jesus. No wise men. No "Merry Christmas." Ever.

Secondly, if you need a Christmas-themed coffee cup to affirm your religion, you have much bigger issues than coffee. Enjoy your religion. Celebrate it. Share it if you choose. But don't force it on anyone. And stop whining that other people that don't participate in it are somehow engaged in a "war" against it -- especially if that war is in the form of a 20-ounce, $6.64 coffee cup. If they were really anti-Christian, they'd find a way to charge you two more cents. Or three less cents in Erie County where they're $6.69.

Third, to those of you who have decided to "show the man" by telling your minimum-wage earning barista that your name is "Merry Christmas," thereby getting a "Merry Christmas" cup, grow up. Your juvenile behavior is not going to turn that barista towards God. And it may result in your coffee having something extra added to it aside from the two pumps of caramel that you requested. To paraphrase Monty in the movie "Waiting," don't mess with the people that make your food.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:13. And I feel strongly that God would not be glorified by your idiocy.

We now return to your regular news already in progress.

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.