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Letter: If history is a guide, fear is unreasonable

If history is a guide, fear is unreasonable

The terrorist attack in Paris last Friday was a disturbing, tragic, senseless act. But its goal to instill hyperbolic fear and panic has been wildly successful. In response to the event, many politicians, mostly on the right but also on the left as well, have called for banning Syrian refugees from seeking asylum in the United States, noting that the Paris attackers could have been masquerading as refugees themselves to gain entry to France.

This fear of outsiders and the unknown is a repugnant strain of thought that has cropped up throughout American history. It was apparent during the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, in the immigration quotas introduced in the 1920s, at the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. But the reaction of these politicians most recently recalls the 1950s era response to a supposed Communist infiltration of our country.

If history is any guide, it demonstrates that this fear is unreasonable, unethical and ultimately self-defeating. The Alien and Sedition acts were repealed, as were immigration quotas. There was no grand Communist scheme to subvert American society. The same will hold true for Syrian refugees. If some are allowed to settle here, the vast majority will contribute to our country’s economy and diversity. The small risk we assume of inadvertently admitting a violent extremist under the guise of a safety-seeking refugee pales in comparison to the number of lives that would be immeasurably improved.

The 34 state governors who have so far refused to accept those families fleeing the type of violence inflicted upon Paris have abnegated their responsibility to promulgate the values our country ostensibly embodies.

Patrick McDuff

Amherst