I have left Senator Ted Cruz, the other republican candidate for president of the U.S., pretty much alone in recent months, as the trumpeter has been occupying much of my writing time and space. However, in light of Mr. Cruz’ recent responses to the terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, it is high time for me to speak up and point out that Cruz, like Trump, is a radical with fascist leanings and is not the solution to the problems facing our nation. For a time, he seemed to be the “lesser of two evils”, but what I have seen this week convinced me that he does, in fact, present a clearly substantial threat to our way of life.
One statement in particular curdled my blood:
“We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
So many points to make about this … where to even start?
First, would somebody please define for me a “Muslim neighborhood”? I live in a small suburban community with four Muslim families on my short street alone, and several on adjoining streets. Does this qualify as a “Muslim neighborhood”? Quite honestly, in the 18 years I have lived here, the only people who have ever threatened me were Caucasian.
Second, what exactly does “patrol and secure” mean? The chilling image this evokes for me is that of gestapo patrolling neighborhoods in places like Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, and others. Or the men in white sheets in the south not so very long ago, “keeping the good white folks safe” by dragging black people from their homes in the middle of the night and hanging them from a tree. I am safer amidst my Muslim neighbors, none of whom are terrorists or pose any threat to my safety, than I would be with police on my street, empowered to knock on doors and arrest people (or worse) for no other reason than that they may or may not be of a certain faith.
Third, why stop at Muslims? If Cruz becomes president, what keeps him from deciding to “patrol and secure” Catholic neighborhoods? Jewish neighborhoods? Or African-American neighborhoods? One of the arguments made by Apple in the recent disagreement about whether the FBI had the right to force Apple to unlock a cell phone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino, was that if we sacrifice a civil liberty, a right to privacy, in one case, what is to stop it from happening in others. This is the essence of the slippery slope argument that President Obama refers to.
President Obama, who had just returned from his visit to Cuba, had this to say about Cruz’ remarks:
“As far as the notion of having surveillance of neighborhoods where Muslims are present, I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance,” Obama said. “Which by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped, for America, the land of the free. The notion that we would start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense. It’s contrary to who we are, and it’s not going to help us defeat ISIL.” Spot on, Mr. President!
As early as 2002, in response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City’s police department engaged in the religious profiling and surveillance of Muslims in New York City. They singled out Muslim religious and community leaders, mosques, student associations, organizations, businesses, and individuals for pervasive surveillance that was discriminatory. They used a number of techniques, including mapping of Muslim communities, photo and video surveillance, police informants, eavesdropping, and cataloguing mosques. They created databases with information on where Muslims lived, worked, shopped and prayed. The program did nothing but cost the taxpayers money. Assistant police chief, Thomas Galati, admits that the program never provided a single credible lead. The program led to a lawsuit brought against the city by Muslims earlier this year and resulted in, among other things, approximately $2 million in attorney fees for the taxpayers of NYC.
Some thoughts from experts and scholars on Cruz’ proposal:
- Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush: “I think his [Cruz] ideas are preposterous. The idea that you can identify people who are a risk based upon their religion or the way they look is completely fallacious. It’s like going after cancer with a meat ax instead of a scalpel.”
- Trevor Thrall, a Cato Institute scholar who is also a professor of policy, government, and international affairs at George Mason University: “Cruz’s suggestion that American law enforcement specifically “patrol and secure” Muslim communities is both immoral and counterproductive. If you’re looking for a way to radicalize someone, patrolling their neighborhoods and keeping a close watch on what they’re doing is a good way to do it”
- Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations: “Police ‘securing’ — what does that mean? Does that mean checkpoints on every corner? Does that mean papers on every street? To me, this sounds like an armed occupation of Muslim neighborhoods.”
- Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law expert at the Cardozo School of Law: “Cruz’s proposal is also plainly unconstitutional — a clear violation of both the First and 14th Amendments. The First Amendment’s “establishment clause” forbids the government from taking actions that “unduly favor” one religion over another. The 14th Amendment ensures “due process of law” to all US citizens.”
This is, or was, last time I checked, the United States of America, a nation defined by the very freedoms that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump are so determined to strip us of. It was suggested to me recently that if I do not wish to live in the culture of hate and violence that is being suggested by these two candidates, I should “just move”. You know what? I am not going to do that. I am going to stay right where I am, I am going to keep on fighting for the same freedoms our founders fought for more than two centuries ago, and I am going to keep being a thorn in the side of those who would rob us of our democracy. Until my last breath. That is a promise.