On Donald Trump’s Proposal to Ban Muslims from Entering the United States

We don’t need to sacrifice our principles to save them.
We are stronger than that.

I’ve studiously avoided wading into the 2016 Presidential election circus.  I really haven’t had anything to say.

Then Donald Trump proposed a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Then a sizable number of people supported that idea.

Now I have something to say.

Aside from the fact that “our country’s representatives” have little chance of “figuring out what’s going on” with anything before the next never, I’d like to share my thoughts on what that proposal means.

First and foremost, if you support this proposal, I believe that you do not believe in the founding documents, or the founding principles and ideals, of the United States.  You may think you do, but I believe that you do not.  I’ll explain.

The Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

All men.  In modern parlance: All human beings.

Not just those who happen to live within certain political boundaries.

This is a foundational and fundamental idea.  It seems to me that you either believe in this idea or you do not.  If you do, then nothing trumps it.  If you do not, then there are exceptions.  There are rationalizations of how and when it can be set aside.

I’m not talking about a measured suspension or revocation of rights after due process.  I’m talking about a preemptive infringement of the rights of many because of the actions of a few.  I’m talking about making broad assumptions about an entire group because of an admittedly dangerous subset of that group.

The Constitution and The Bill of Rights

Yes, there were some compromises made in the Constitutional Convention.  The issue of slavery was one that was hotly debated, then festered for a century, and was finally settled with blood.  I believe the document was inspired, but is not perfect.  For example, George Mason wisely had concerns that the Constitution did not adequately limit the reach of the federal government over individual liberty and state sovereignty.

Several of our unalienable rights were outlined and specifically protected in the Bill of Rights.  First among these is that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

That is a fundamental principle.  It is a core tenet of what it means to be a “free people.”

We can debate whether the Constitution itself applies just to Americans, or to all people residing within our borders.  What I’m talking about here, though, is the underlying principle of unalienable rights.

Either you believe that the free exercise of religion is an unalienable right, or you do not.

The Founding Fathers believed that it is.

ISIS believes it is not.

Liberty vs. Safety

You may have quoted Benjamin Franklin when he says “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Guess what?  You are now standing on the other side of that quote.  Except, it’s not your liberty you’re willing to sacrifice.  It’s someone else’s.  Someone you are making assumptions about.  You are willing to set aside the fundamental, unalienable right of every human being because of the actions of a few.

You’re frustrated.  You’re angry.  You’re maybe even a little scared.  I understand all of that.

But this is the United States of America.

We are not that fragile.

We can handle it.

Wholly Impractical

As I thought through the implications of Trump’s statement, I also thought about the numbers.  You know, the number of people on Earth, how many of them are Muslim, how many people in the U.S., how many of them are Muslim.  Then I started writing about what a drop in the bucket these, admittedly horrendous, attacks have been, and what percentage of Muslims that really represents.  My hope was to give a sense of scale, and maybe shed some light on flawed surveys with questionable statistical relevance from biased sources.

But then I realized that diving deep into all of that would detract from my core point.

So, I’ll simply jump to the end of where I was going with this.

Think about how ludicrous it would be to try to implement a policy like a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the United States.  How would you do it, other than to simply ask the question: “Are you a Muslim?”

Guess what?  The folks you really want to keep out of the country would have no problem lying in answer to that question.  So, what good would it do?  None.

We want good folks to come to the United States, regardless of their religion.  Why set up a system that intentionally excludes the honest ones, and lets the bad ones in?

The answer, as cooler heads are now saying, is to vet everyone.  That’s what we should be doing anyway.

“But, Lynn,” you say.  “Wouldn’t that make it easier to vet them if we had the ban?  Then we’d have fewer applications to sift through.”

Except, with the ban in place, you still couldn’t let the good ones in because, you know, they’re banned.

So, what is the point, other than making us look wholly impractical?

I support a thorough vetting process of everyone who enters the country.  I can even support different levels of background checks based on a variety of risk factors.  Are you part of a statistically verified segment that displays a higher propensity for risk?  Sure, we’ll look at you a little more closely.  Insurance companies do it all the time.

That is not the same as a blanket ban on all Muslims, which is what Donald Trump proposes.

It’s a Matter of Principle

If you initially thought Donald Trump’s idea was a good one, it’s not too late to change your mind.

Hopefully you don’t feel like you’ve painted yourself into a corner and can’t change course without losing face.

It’s okay to say “on further reflection, I’ve decided I don’t like that idea as much as I thought I did.”

I’d go so far as to say that you don’t have to totally abandon Donald Trump if you still have your flag firmly planted in his camp.  (I don’t, but then I’ve been staying out of the fray as much as possible.)

But, hopefully, you’re starting to see how his proposal for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” runs counter to one of the fundamental founding principles that makes this nation a beacon to the world.

We do need to make sure that we vet people who enter the country.  We also need to sort out the best way to deal with this latest brand of people who want to impose their beliefs by force.  But Donald Trump’s idea is not the way.

We don’t need to sacrifice our principles to save them.

We are stronger than that.

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