Now we know.
I've always wondered about shameful moments in American history, such as the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. We imprisoned people without trials simply on the basis of who their ancestors were.
We betrayed not just basic principles of our law but the very core of the American Revolution, the bedrock belief that government cannot exercise arbitrary, unchecked authority. Why did we – we Americans who vow to defend freedom – do this?
Because we were scared. And that fear prompted us to deny what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."
We're in a similar panic now, so frightened by the attacks in Paris that we once again are willing to suspend our commitments to both compassion and the rule of law by banning refugees from horror-plagued Syria.
That is why the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump, says he would force all Muslims in the United States to carry special identification cards. Trump is either unaware or doesn't care that his proposal echoes the Nazis' approach to German Jews in the 1930s.
That is why the Republican governor from New Jersey (and presidential candidate) Chris Christie says he would ban even small children as refugees.
And that is why our governor, Mike Pence, turned away a family that had been waiting in Jordan for three years to come to the United States. They were supposed to seek sanctuary in Indiana, but, after Pence's refusal, instead found it in Connecticut.
That prompted Connecticut's governor, Democrat Dan Malloy, to deliver a stern rebuke. Malloy accused Pence of being intolerant and blind to moral responsibilities.
"This is the same guy who signed a homophobic bill in the spring surrounded by homophobes," Malloy said of Pence. "So I'm not surprised by anything the governor does."
Malloy's criticism was mild compared to that from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.
Cohen said the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum presents a Profile in Courage award on an annual basis. He suggested that there also ought to be a Profile in Cowardice award – and he nominated Pence as the first recipient.
"Pence is the Republican governor of Indiana," Cohen wrote. "He was born in Columbus, Indiana, on June 7, 1959, apparently without a spine."
Cohen correctly noted that the United States is scheduled to accept fewer than 200 Syrian refugees this year – most of them women and children and all of whom have been vetted and investigated for years.
Pence has responded to the criticism with another inarticulate national television appearance – this time on CNN – and a strange op-ed column in which he asserts that Indiana will continue to offer refuge to those people who really don't need refuge and help to those souls who really don't need help.
The Trumps, the Christies and the Pences love to speak pieties about freedom but their real measure is much more basic: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Be so afraid that you stop thinking. And that is exactly what our enemies want.
We call ISIS a terrorist organization because its goal is to create terror – and, led by the Trumps, Christies and Pences, we are surrendering to terror. They want to make this a war between the Muslim and non-Muslim world – and, led by the Trumps, Christies and Pences, we are helping them divide the world along precisely that line.
Our fear just makes them stronger.
A man who became America's first Republican president once said that America cannot claim to be devoted to freedom if we are willing to honor our founding principles in some cases and ignore them when the going gets hard.
Such as when we're scared.
Abraham Lincoln said, "When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some other country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy."
It's always interesting to speculate on what our breaking points might be – what might lead us to surrender that which we love and profess to honor.
Now we know.
Both the United States and Indiana have proud traditions of welcoming individuals and families who seek the safety and refuge that all Americans find within our borders. I believe we have a responsibility as the beacon of freedom in the world to welcome those into our communities who seek asylum in the land of opportunity.
In September, President Obama announced plans to increase by 10,000 the number of refugees entering the United States from Syria. As we consider admitting additional refugees from Syria into Indiana, my highest duty and first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of the people of our state.
Last month, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, testified before Congress that there were "certain gaps...in the data available to us..." regarding the Syrian refugee program and noted the "risk associated of bringing anybody in...from a conflict zone" like Syria. Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, echoed a similar concern that the United States would not "know a whole lot about the Syrians that come forth" in the refugee process.
One of the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in Paris exploited the European Union's refugee system to gain entrance to France. In the wake of this terrorist attack and the concerns expressed by our federal security agencies, last week I directed all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana until the federal government implements proper security measures. Hoosiers should know that the resettlement process for those seeking asylum in Indiana will continue for all non-Syrian refugees.
Indiana is not alone in making this decision. A bipartisan majority of governors from around the country have made a similar decision. The House of Representatives passed, on a strong bipartisan basis, legislation that would ensure Syrian refugees are properly screened. Hoosiers are rightfully concerned about their safety and security, and I encourage the Senate to move swiftly on this legislation. In the meantime, lawmakers would be wise to follow our own Sen. Dan Coats' proposal and consider additional humanitarian aid that would allow the United States and our international partners to serve displaced persons near their home country.
I am deeply moved by the plight of those seeking to escape threats of violence for a better life in a place like Indiana, as are so many compassionate Hoosiers. Thousands of refugees have escaped some of the darkest places in the world and now call Indiana home.
In recent years, we've welcomed Burmese refugees, among numerous others, from places within Africa, Cuba, Iran and Iraq. As a member of Congress, I cosponsored legislation that would help bring vulnerable asylum-seeking Iraqi refugees to the United States in an expedited fashion and voted in support of a law that would increase the number of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters that supported our armed forces in those conflicts.
Indiana and the United States must continue to serve as a safe harbor for refugees from around the world; however, unless and until the federal government addresses the security gaps acknowledged by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security with regard to refugees from Syria, as governor I will continue to put the safety and security of Hoosiers first.
As the stories and images from the horror and madness in Paris filled TV screens and dominated newspaper front pages, I sat in a room and talked with Muslim Hoosiers.
We talked on Saturday, the day after terrorists launched a series of attacks on the City of Light, murdering nearly 130 people and wounding at least another 350. Even as the sobs of the grieving still could be heard, ISIS – the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – claimed credit for the atrocities.
My conversation with the Muslim Alliance of Indiana had been scheduled weeks before. I was supposed to moderate a discussion with other media and political professionals about the impact of specific public policy issues on Muslim citizens.
But the suffering in Paris overshadowed – indeed, overwhelmed – that agenda and we dispensed with it.
We became a group of people, puzzled and troubled by the madness of an angry world, sitting in a room, trying to find points of understanding.
The Muslim Hoosiers in the room were as horrified by the brutality in Paris as anyone else. Beneath that horror was something else, a sense of shell shock and resignation that they once again somehow would be blamed or held responsible for actions they deplore.
For acts they consider a betrayal of their faith.
As we talked, their questions began to form a refrain.
How do we get other people to see that we are a religion of peace?
How do we get people to see that we despise terrorism, too?
How do we get our neighbors and fellow citizens to understand that we, too, just want to live our lives, raise our families and do our work?
How? How? How?
We talked about the difficulties of arriving at anything resembling understanding in a social media-dominated world in which everyone shouts and too few people listen. We talked about the angry voices on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere who scream for massive and irrational retaliation – using atomic weapons in the Middle East, slaughtering civilians, including women and children, to "send a message," answering madness with still more madness.
More important, we listened.
One man, the anguish in his voice palpable, asked:
How can we get people to realize that these extreme responses are just what the jihadists and extremists want? They want the West to issue blanket and angry condemnations of all Muslims everywhere. They want American leaders to threaten sweeping reprisals. They launch these attacks not just to hurt the people of the West, but to provoke rage in them – because that rage helps the jihadists and extremists recruit new members to their murderous fold.
The answers, even in this age of exploding communications technology, were old ones.
Regardless of the medium or media one uses, we have to find ways to cut through the noise, all the yelling and screaming. We have to find ways to get people to slow down and pay attention. We have to find ways to help people listen, because that's the only way we'll come to understand each other.
Outside that room, elsewhere in the world, people running for president of the United States – people who should know better – threatened to rain Armageddon down on the Muslim world. They pledged to answer horror with horror.
Inside the room, we talked as neighbors should, about our hopes for our children and our community, our desire for an end to strife and a new birth of peace. We talked about the things that link us as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends and fellow human beings.
And we listened.
Then, when the time was up, with handshakes and well wishes all around, we left that room, that quiet place in an otherwise troubled world.
John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehousefile.com.
I was struck by Stephanie Dolan's opinion piece "You're not all Hemingway" in NUVO's Nov. 4 edition. But, let's just say, it wasn't in the best possible way. As a frequent contributor to NUVO, I read Dolan's essays from time to time. To keep up with the Joneses, I suppose. She does have a folksy charm about her writing that is often funny, but I think she lost her way with this one.
The thesis of this op-ed seems to be that most of us will never amount to the likes of Obama or Albert Einstein, or Elvis. Therefore we dumb fucks should put our hands over our eyes—and put away our smartphones—when violence explodes before us.
Dolan's example is one ripped from current newsfeeds. You probably recall the story about the white school resource officer who knocked a seated 15-year-old female African-American student to the ground and subsequently dragged her across her classroom in Spring Valley High School in South Carolina back in late October. Other students recorded video of this incident with their smartphones.
"The teenagers who recorded Senior Deputy Ben Fields violently subduing a 15-year-old student who refused to comply when she was told to leave her math class didn't waste any time in posting those videos online. There was no thought to the consequences of those postings. There was no second-guessing rash actions. They thought only of the attention they would receive and the ways in which they could insinuate themselves into the issue by having their names attached to this story."
But maybe there was something else going on. Maybe these students wanted to get their eyewitness accounts – recorded in their cellphones—out to the public before the whole affair became a he said/she said type of deal. What's wrong with that?
But according to Dolan, "these people need to sit the hell down and shut the hell up."
I'm wondering if Dolan would have the same point of view if this 15-year-old victim had had her back broken—or been paralyzed as a result of the officer's excessive force. I'm wondering if Dolan had the same response to the shooting of Black motorist Walter Scott by white South Carolina police officer Michael Slager on April 4, 2015. Recall that this incident came to the attention of the public through a bystander recording it by cellphone. I could go on. Suffice to say it's because of the "interwebz" and the fact that "everyone has a voice," through the democratization of technology, that we know about such incidents.
It seems that Dolan believes that internet savvy high school students are somehow in league with Rachel Maddow and other progressive media voices. I don't see it. And her contention that the "liberal media" is always coming down on the side of the "underdog" recalls the red meat thrown out by the likes of Fox News and Dana Loesch to their largely older, white audiences.
And Dolan's contention that the right to have cell phones—and to procreate—should only be awarded to those who pass an intelligence test, recalls the more sordid elements of our nation's past – the eugenics movement, Jim Crow laws – and not in a good way, even if she was saying these things tongue-in-cheek.
But her crowning insult to high school students everywhere – and to her readership as well — is the pithy title of her op-ed: "You're not all Hemingway."
Ernest Hemingway might best be known for hunting elephants in Africa as for his novels and short stories. But he was also, arguably, the greatest prose stylist of the twentieth century. He wrote in a terse, simple style that recalled his work as a newspaper reporter. In the wake of World War I, a war in which Hemingway served as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross, he wrote A Farewell to Arms. It was a novel in which the devastating costs of that conflict – and the lies that led to it – were laid bare in plain language.
In the novel, his protagonist Lieutenant Frederic Henry talks of the language of that war:
"I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice ... I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity."
I've always been moved by those lines. And I've always been moved by his point here — that the language itself, whether ornate or ordinary, becomes obscene in the service of lies.
And I've often recalled those lines when George W. Bush and his administration led us into war by lying to the American public — manufacturing phrases like "the axis of evil" and "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Such language is meant to subvert the democratic process. To the extent that the internet provides a counterbalance to narratives based on lies — whether it's the narrative about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or the narrative of liberal media dominance or some other false narrative — I'm all for it.
I'm all for students turning their smartphones towards acts of abuse and uploading for the world to see. I'm all for bystanders filming acts of violence taking place on the streets, whether it's directed at innocent civilians or at the police. I'm all for non-sanctioned raw video contradicting official statements of police departments, school boards, and congressional oversight committees.
No one should ever think that they are too small or too insignificant — or too young — to have a voice. Let everyone have his or her "global mouthpiece."