I am very thankful to live, worship, and work in the United States. One of the things I value most about many of my friends, family, and colleagues in this country is their integrity. Many of them astound me with their ability to bear tremendous physical and emotional burdens on a daily basis while serving and caring for the people they love. At our best, being an American means integrity, service to community, and personal responsibility.
Sadly these qualities are missing entirely from Donald Trumps recent remarks on banning Muslim immigrants from the United States. It illuminates a serious flaw in Mr. Trumps ability to be an effective leader. An effective leader does not encourage the people he leads to lay the blame for their own fears and difficulties on others. A good leader, or a citizen with true integrity, encourages each of us to take a long and honest look at the problems we collectively face and place the responsibility for fixing them squarely on our own shoulders.
One of the things I am most grateful to my mother for is her insistence on personal responsibility. On the various occasions growing up when I tried to blame my lateness or lack of completed homework on my friends or sisters she saw right through me. “Ben, you are the only one who bears the blame for your own problems. That excuse ain’t gonna work with me.”
The United States has a plethora of problems, this is obvious to most. In light of the San Bernardino shootings and the recent gun violence in my own hometown of Colorado Springs, many are justifiably fearful of their personal safety and the safety of their family. It is right for law enforcement to be trained to handle these kind of horrific events and to be watchful for the next one.
But we hobble our own efforts at self preservation when we put blinders on and focus solely on the Muslim community as a scapegoat for a country wide problem. It is important to have the clear eyed maturity to remember that attacks of this sort have come from all segments of society espousing a multitude of creeds, religions, ethnicities, and skin colors. Is Mr. Trump really naive enough to think that barring Muslims from the United States is going to make us safe?
If we, as Americans, turn our backs on Muslim citizens and scapegoat them as the source of all our problems we make ourselves *less* secure not more. In doing so we rip at the very fabric that holds this country together, personal responsibility, and a commitment to our broad social welfare regardless of our cultural origins.
Are citizens who are Pro-Life responsible for the actions of Robert Dear? Are Christians responsible for the actions of David Koresh? Are Koreans responsible for the actions of Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui Cho? Obviously not.
A broad alienation by the citizens of the United States of their fellow Muslim Americans is in fact exactly what “Muslims-in-name-only”, ie. violent extremists, are counting on. Mr Trump invites us to create even more enemies by scapegoating the very American citizens who can be our greatest allies and assets in a conflict that knows no borders. If you are a Muslim American reading this post I want to make it clear to you that this American does not fear you. I embrace you as a fellow citizen of the United States and a fellow human being. Many of your fellow Americans are not taken in by Mr. Trumps message. We have no desire to cast away our integrity because we fear a convenient bogeyman and wish to place our responsibilities on the shoulders of phantom scapegoats.
But such is the nature of leaders who cannot see past their own fears and think with rationality and courage. They create bogeymen and invite us to give into cowardice and play right in to the hands of those who would commit violence against us. We cannot make ourselves safer with the kind of folly Mr. Trump is advocating. We will never be safer or maintain our integrity as Americans by naively blaming our ills randomly on those around us and dodging our personal responsibility to fix them.
What Mr. Trump offers is the soft cuddly lie that we will always be safe. That if we trade our national integrity to fight bogeymen we will be safe from danger. But in his blind fear he fails to realize he plays right into the hands of those he claims he will save us from.
No President will ever be our Superman. We have to play that part ourselves. Together.