Opinion » The Rant

The Great Unfriending

People used to keep their opinions to themselves until they were drunk. No longer.

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If nothing else, Facebook was certainly interesting last week. After the horrible carnage in Paris, people changed their profile pictures to the French flag or superimposed the vertical red, white, and blue stripes over their faces. We were united in solidarity with the French in their grief and anger.

Then, in the aftermath of the attack, it was discovered that one of the soulless killers had a Syrian passport and had registered as a refugee in Greece. When the topic of refugees from the Syrian civil war being resettled in this country arose, all hell broke loose.

Thus began "the great unfriending."

Generally speaking, a new strain of xenophobia exploded onto social media. The most common sentiment was that this was all a plot for ISIS to infiltrate this country and kill Christians, and, of course, it's Obama's fault. The ignorance and racism on Facebook was appalling. An exact quote from my comment section said, "All you liberal lesbians and out-in-left-field democrats can take a flying fuck. Our gutless president needs to pull his head out of the sand and to be like France." He got unfriended. In fact, one social media critic claimed, "It was the largest unfriending week in Facebook history."

Of course, the crassest and most repugnant remarks came from the klavern of GOP presidential candidates. Ben Carson compared the refugees to "mad dogs." Marco Rubio said, "We can't background check them. You can't pick up the phone and call Syria." And Donald Trump out-uglied everybody.

A month ago I wrote that it was never proper to use Hitler references when discussing American politics, but Trump has gone flat-out Nazi. Saying, "we're going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago," Trump favors a database to track Muslims, surveillance of mosques, warrantless wiretaps, and ID cards proving religious affiliation. A Black Lives Matter activist was beaten and kicked at a recent Trump rally. Asked if Muslims should wear some sort of identifying badge, he shrugged it off but didn't rule it out. Obama countered with, "perhaps ignorant racists should wear special ID badges too."

Trump's new applause line, "I would bomb the shit out of them," is a sentiment held by many, but not exactly what you want to hear from the potential leader of the free world. He's still trying to find a "humane way" to round up 11 million Mexicans. I don't know, but it sure sounds like Germany in the 1930s.

While every GOP candidate is rattling a sabre for more wars using other people's children, Congress passed a bill that forces every refugee from Syria to be screened by the head of the FBI. Half the governors in the country, all but one a Republican, have put out the sign that says, "Syrians not welcome here." Contrast that with the sentiments expressed by French president François Hollande. After the bloodiest terrorist attack on French soil, Hollande said it was France's "humanitarian duty" to help refugees landing on European shores. Hollande proclaimed that France would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees and spend $53.3 million to develop housing for them. Since the United States pledged to stand with France, aren't we fortunate to have a secretary of state who speaks the language fluently? And do you remember when John Kerry was mocked by the Republicans for being "too French?" Or the "freedom fries," and the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys?" Germany has offered to settle 800,000 refugees. The United States is accepting 10,000 with hysterical resistance. Isn't it ironic that in 70 years, Germany has transformed from Nazism into a beacon of hope for the world?

The truth is that the United States has resettled more immigrants than any other country. Since 9/11, the United States has admitted 859,629 refugees. Of that number, three were convicted of planning attacks on targets outside the United States, none of them successful. This country has one of the most thorough vetting processes for immigrants in the world, but how do you stop someone who is both suicidal and homicidal? These savages aren't the huddled masses yearning to be free. They are well-financed zealots who can afford an airline ticket and a visa. They aren't the desperate refugees who walked from a war zone in Syria all the way to Europe with their babies and grandmothers, looking for sanctuary from hell.

Before Facebook, most people kept their idiotic opinions to themselves until they were drunk. Not any more. Right-wing media spews misinformation as a business plan. You might hear some Fox News quotes from an angry uncle this very week.

Before sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, we should be mindful of what the holiday is for and remember that, once, our forefathers were accepted as refugees into this country by the indigenous population. So just shut up about the Muslims and eat your turkey.

Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.

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