Overreacting to Paris

No one twists facts to suit theories quite like Donald Trump, who spoke with MSNBC on Monday morning about the possibility of shutting down U.S. mosques in light of the Paris attacks.
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Moments after the last shots were fired in Paris, the first waves of fear reached our shores and began clouding our collective judgment. I don't judge this overreaction; it often serves a necessary purpose in waking people up to the dangers of fringe thinking.

For instance, maybe we need the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia to reference the possibility of internment camps for incoming Syrian refugees, as he did yesterday, to get some people to walk back from fear-induced xenophobia. Joining 24 governors in open defiance of a Presidential directive to settle 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, Democratic mayor David Bowers released this statement: "I'm reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then."

It is, and so are the consequences of such a ridiculous overreaction.


Much like the colossal failure of Japanese-American internment camps, rushing to judgement has lasting consequences. One need look no further than one of the root causes of this proliferation of radical jihadism: the ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003. Overreactions rob us of the ability to consider all possibilities and manage their implications; they substitute short-term satisfaction for long-term solutions. As great literary rationalist Sherlock Holmes once remarked, "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

No one twists facts to suit theories quite like Donald Trump, who spoke with MSNBC on Monday morning about the possibility of shutting down U.S. mosques in light of the Paris attacks. "I would hate to do it, but it's something you're going to have to strongly consider... the hatred is incredible. It's embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands."

Everybody, that is, except The Donald. Who better to espouse a position so repugnant as the crackdown on religious expression in a country founded on freedom of religion?

This is the man, after all, who blamed Paris itself for last week's horrific attacks while speaking at a rally in Beaumont, Texas. "When you look at Paris -- the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris -- nobody had guns but the bad guys... You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry, it would have been a much, much different situation."

Serves those Parisians right, then. Lesson learned.

In this country, though, he might need to bone up on our Bill of Rights. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In an October 21 interview with Stuart Varney on the Fox Business show Varney & Co, Trump was asked to explain whether he could actually close a mosque in light of these burdensome Constitutional protections. "It depends. If the mosque is, you know, loaded for bear, I don't know."

And I believe him: he really doesn't know. And neither does anybody else. I'd feel a lot better about the direction of our country if we all admitted that before overreacting to the next crisis.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net, contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.

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