“I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men….”

Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas, the ninth-largest city in the country, said he is “more fearful” of armed white men than of alleged ISIS moles posing as Syrian refugees during an appearance on MSNBC last year. “I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue,” Mayor Rawlings said. He has previously supported bringing Syrian refugees to America and Dallas, telling the Dallas Morning News last year that “we fall into the trap if we become xenophobic and paranoid about people in the Middle East.” He told MSNBC in November 2015 he had spoken to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about the issue, but said that they “disagree” about the risks refugees pose. Abbot is virulently anti-refugee along with most the rest of Texas’s state government.

Terrorism is sure to generate much heat and passion, though the actual risk we face is far less than the fear which can be ginned up by raising the specter of swarthy Islamofascists working to destroy America.

If we’re to have a conversation about how to stop something all of us can probably agree is a terrible thing, wouldn’t it make sense to be honest in the manner we evaluate and discuss terrorism? How can we stop a threat when we can’t even be honest about what and who actually constitute a clear and present danger to the Homeland?

Why is it those on the Far Right are quick to scream about the “threat” posed by Muslims in the U.S. when the demonstrable truth is that we face a far more significant threat from White extremists? The narrative has long been that terrorism is the sole purview of Swarthy Islamofascists; White people by definition can’t be terrorists. Sure, they have some anger control issues and act out inappropriately now and again…but give ’em a break. So they kill a few innocent civilians once in a while; their hearts are in the right place…which is what counts, right??

The generalized Conservative opposition to immigration has far more to do with disdain for compassionately granting refuge to people “not like us”- i.e.– White, Christian, heterosexual- than it does actual policy. It’s about believing this country should be the property of White folks. America is, always has been, and always will be a country of immigrants- refugees, if you will. Unless you’re Native American, virtually all of us can trace our heritage to places beyond our borders. Too many (63 million Trump voters, f’rinstance) have conveniently forgotten that fact.

By all means, let’s have a discussion about immigration and terrorism…but if we’re going to do it, let’s be honest about what the real problems are. Let’s not get mired in dishonesty, religious discrimination, racism, and cheap propaganda. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room- White Christian extremists determined to resist the government at all costs. While we’re at it, let’s talk about the actual (read: minimal) risks posed by immigration.

For my part, I refuse to accept that to protect the Homeland our immigration policy must be based on religious and racist filters. I reject the Conservative belief that compassion betrays weakness, something those who hate us can easily exploit.

Can we summon the compassion to open our hearts and welcome those looking for safety, security, and opportunity? Or will we allow our irrational, unsupportable fears and prejudices determine how (or even if) we’ll extend a hand to those looking for refuge?

As if I don’t already know the answer to those questions….

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