Autumn in the Ozarks is slowly turning toward winter. Our Indian summer seems to have ended, replaced by a blustery chill. A heavy rain over the last two days brought four and half inches of rain and took down all but the last of the leaves. Like late revelers after the crowds have gone home, a few shrubs still wave branches heavy with gold, a few others, brilliant reds. The grass, too, clings to its green. Modest white oaks remain dressed in russet leaves all winter, letting go only when new leaves come in spring. Cedars, of course, stay deep green. The rest of the woods, however, are charcoal-drawn and bare. A boon to hunters. A bane to deer.
While here we have been attending to our daily life, the opening of deer season, and the changing weather, Paris, France was roiled by terror attacks. I happened to have been working online when reports of an explosion near the soccer stadium came across the Reuters newswire.
I found a French newsfeed broadcasting in English. They were live from Paris. Seven hours and 4500 miles away, I watched in horror as the attacks unfolded. More explosions. Shootings at cafes. Hostage-taking at the Bataclan concert hall. Shots and blasts and screams and cries for help.
When it ended, 129 people, mostly young, all innocent, had been killed, 352 had been wounded – many critically, 5 terrorists had triggered suicide vests and blown themselves to smitherines, one had been killed by police, at least one had escaped alive.
Friday, 13 November 2015, had just become France’s 9-11.
I stayed awake late that night, hoping, praying, crying, breathless at the brutality of the attacks, the unjustifiable killings and trauma, the pain that had been wrought on so many by so few. And for what? The attackers knew, their commanders knew, that no matter how much harm and mayhem they caused, it would not stop France from being France. It would not cause mass conversions to their terribly distorted beliefs. It would simply cause death and destruction and pain in their name and for one lingering moment, they would be famous. What a paltry price to pay for human life. What a paltry price for despised notoriety.
The next day, the terrorists were identified as members of DAESH, (another name for ISIS, ISIL, or the self-acclaimed “Islamic State.” According to the BBC, DAESH is the acronym for the Arabic name of ISIS. The leaders, however, have forbidden anyone from calling them DAESH because it is so similar to an Arabic word “dais” meaning “to crush” or “to trample.” These radical psychopaths want to be seen by the world as righteous, justified, bringing necessary Islamic order to unbelievers. To be called The Crushers or The Tramplers simply strikes too close to the reality of who they are and what they do. So, I will call them DAESH).
DAESH is the radical, ideological successor to al Qaeda, which has all but collapsed following the death of Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts. While DAESH claims to represent Muslim beliefs, they are to Islam what Dylan Roof (the South Carolina Church killer), the KKK, and the Aryan Brotherhood are to Christianity. For all of their claiming to be defending their Muslim beliefs against infidels, DAESH is perverting their religion in the very worst way, becoming themselves the embodiment of evil and everything they claim to detest. Even Muslims see them as radicalized terrorists. Almost unanimously, they are seen as the corruption of everything that is holy and sacred and meaningful in the universe.
Because of the terror attacks in France, however, many in the United States do not want Syrian refugees here. They fear inviting Muslims in. They are too close to the terror they fear. They do not want them in our midst.
This is an old fear in this country. In 1938, 64.7% of Americans did not want Jewish refugees of Hitler’s Germany to be brought into the county because they looked different from us and held different religious beliefs. From 1942 through 1946, Japanese-Americans were held in internment camps, many of their homes and much of their property confiscated, because their heritage was the same as those attacking the nation.
And yet, like the Jews who did not bring Hitler and the Japanese-Americans whose loyalty to this country never wavered, the Syrian refugees are not terrorists. Rather, they are fleeing the very same people that we fear — DAESH. The Syrian refuges are men and women and children who simply want a safe place to sleep, to eat, to work, to pray, to raise themselves and their families. They are people in need, begging for help.
Before we again make the same mistake that we made with the Jews and the Japanese-Americans, and as we prepare to fix our Thanksgiving feasts, dust off our Christmas decorations, and set up holy mangers on our hearths and lawns, it is worth remembering that once, long, long ago, another Middle Eastern family sought shelter from the cold…