No Fear

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT

Dear Sirs and Madam,

In advance of tonight's Republican Presidential debate, I would like to offer this open plea to the candidates assembled in both forums: in short, it is a plea to pledge to reject fear as either a campaign tactic or justification for policy. A disclaimer right up front, I am a registered Democrat and self-proclaimed liberal who votes in every election, but that should not discourage a conversation that seeks to identify areas where we can actually agree. The political polarization gripping the country is thwarting our ability to intelligently and strategically deal with an enemy that knows no constraints with respect to ideology, religion or culture when it comes to violence and murder. Terrorists kill innocents to incite fear, which is the single most effective weapon that can be used to divide otherwise peaceful citizens. On this point we should all be able to unite around the proposition that governing by fear is antithetical to American ideals and values.

Fear is an extremely effective motivator that can easily distort common sense and rationality and to resort to its use is to relinquish any moral authority whatsoever. There is a time to flex muscles and there is a time to exercise restraint. Not every action needs to be met with an equally deplorable reaction. There is a lot of rhetoric being carelessly bandied about in this election cycle that suggests that power is always the most appropriate equalizer. Nothing could be further from the truth and those who find mindless satisfaction in such nonsensical bluster are little more than bullies. Bullies and terrorists share a common thirst for utilizing fear to get what they want, the difference being that terrorists specifically target innocents while bullies oftentimes inflict collateral damage on innocents. But since innocents are collateral damage in even the most surgical of violent strikes the distinction can sadly lose all meaning.

There is a strong inclination in the heat of rhetorical battle to connote that those who do not adhere to the notion that might makes right are unpatriotic or weak, when in actuality uncontrollable rage against whole populations aid and abet our enemies, an act tantamount to treason. So for the record let me set the record straight with respect to the difficult challenges that we as a nation and a people face in dealing with terrorism: playing into your opponent's hands reflects failure and defeat.

Anyone, regardless of race, creed, color, religion or cultural background who commits atrocities against innocent populations of any size deserves to be dealt with in a manner consistent with the laws and values of a society that prides itself upon justice and jurisprudence. This is neither a liberal nor conservative or a Republican or Democratic proposition, it is one that unites us as a society that seeks to guarantee freedom and promote civil liberties while at the same time recognizing the need for public safety. As a society we may have different notions as to what constitutes appropriate public policy but our adherence to protection and fairness should unite us in making sure that we do not overreach in our prosecution of those ideals. We, as a society, cannot promote or adhere to a philosophy that would punish those whose only crime is having differing viewpoints.

So this plea is to ask that each of you look deep into your hearts and summon the very best principles of probity and public service in the execution of your desires to promote a better society and a better world. Refrain from exacting revenge on a religion, a culture, a race or creed. We are facing an enemy that does adhere to such categorizations. We are not at war with a nation or a religion but rather an ideology that unfortunately is shared by folks who very well could be your next door neighbors.

Let us stand united in our revulsion of anyone who would countenance violence for the sake of sensationalism. But losing perspective over just who the enemy is only serves to divide the country and unite the opposition. So please consider removing from the political discussions the false bravado that scores points with those who are susceptible to fear, and pledge to work together with the other side in constructing an appropriate response that will defy and defeat those who would destroy us from within. This should be a bipartisan quest. Let us truly follow the wise maxim enunciated by Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg that politics does stop at the water's edge.

Lance Simmens
Concerned Citizen