Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In wake of Paris attacks, US should not ditch compassion

(Rasande Tyskar/ Flickr)
(Rasande Tyskar/ Flickr)

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have understandably shaken the Western world to its core. The death toll is harrowing and the potential for more violence is terrifying.

The West has been attacked, and it wants to strike back. The terrorists ended over 100 precious lives and sent a strong message filled with fiery hate. It is only natural that we want to send an equally strong message back, an insistence that we will not stand idly by as our people are slaughtered and our values attacked.

But why then does much of the Western response make me feel sick? Why do I fear that the attacks have succeeded in bringing out the worst of us? I think it is because I am noticing a worrying trend. We are flirting with the dangerous idea that to protect ourselves and exact revenge, we must necessarily abandon any notion of compassion.

The conservative response to the attacks here in the United States was swift and predictable. It echoed the traditional mantra of being “tough on terror,” and while I might not agree with certain measures like putting American boots on the ground, I understand the need for debate after such an atrocious attack.

But several prominent politicians crossed an important line. They did not only call for increased military action against ISIS or safer security measures on the home front. They also demanded a suspension of moral values, an acceptance that this fight must be won at any cost, no matter the suffering inflicted on members of the non-Western world.

How do we defeat ISIS in the Middle East? “I would bomb … them,” presidential candidate Donald Trump declared at an Iowa rally. Senator Ted Cruz agreed, adding that we need a bombing campaign with a “tolerance for civilian casualties.” He defended this stance by pointing out that, “the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent human life.” How strange to hear a member of the Congress assert that we should base our own sense of morality on that of ISIS.

On protecting the home front, the general conservative consensus has been to deny Syrian refugees entry into the United States. Again, I understand the reaction. We saw what happened in Paris and we know something similar could happen here. But the policy is nonetheless cruel, and the undue harshness of the rhetoric has me truly worried.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, said that we should not allow “orphans under the age of five” into the country. While these children pose no security threat, Christie´s remarks pander to a worryingly large portion of the American electorate that sees compassion in the face of terror as a weakness.

I already know that plenty of readers will contemptuously call me a ¨bleeding heart liberal¨ for my opinions, but that is a label I will gladly accept. I want to be proud of the country I live in, not just for its economic and military might but also for its commitment to taking the moral high ground.

In 1983, Irish political scientist Benedict Anderson famously argued that nations are in fact simply “imagined communities.” The United States of America is a community I would like to continue imagining myself a part of, but not if its members care so little about other people´s lives.

Benjamin Clabault is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • K

    KBDec 2, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Ben .. I also believe we should exhibit “ compassion” .. compassion that is ..for the people that live here .. by protecting us…protecting the citizens of an actual country that is not some “imagined community”…. which by the way is what we pay these mopes for.
    Five thousand ..ten thousand ..twenty thousand Islamic refugees can never be “vetted”… hell were not even asking the right questions!
    Vetting only works if you vet for the right thing. Washington, in its delusional Islamophilia, vets only for ties to terrorism, which it defines as “violent extremism” in it’s denial of modern terrorism’s Islamist ideological moorings.
    As the deteriorating situation in Europe manifests, our actual challenge is ISLAMIC SUPREMACY .. of which jihadist terrorism is only a subset. ..


    Sharia rejects the touchstone of American democracy: the belief that the people have a right to govern themselves and chart their own destiny. In sharia governance, the people are subjects not citizens, and they are powerless to question, much less to change, Allah’s law. Sharia systematically discriminates against women and non-Muslims. It is brutal in its treatment of apostates and homosexuals. It denies freedom of conscience, free expression, property rights, economic liberty, and due process of law. It licenses wars of aggression against infidels for the purpose of establishing sharia as the law of the land.

    The question is not whether we are admitting Muslims who currently have ties to terrorist organizations; it is whether we are admitting Muslims who are apt to become violent jihadists after they settle here….

  • A

    ArafatDec 1, 2015 at 11:36 am

    What is a shame is your misunderstanding. Many Americans oppose Syrian refugee immigration because we are realists.
    * Immigrating to America is not a right it is a privilege to be meted out to the most deserving. I know it’s not PC to write this even if it is true.
    * Muslim immigrants (wherever they go) often have no interest in embracing cultures or values that are not Islamic. We see this in Europe, Russia, NW China, India, Kenya, Israel, Kashmir, Sudan, you name it.
    * Worse still Muslim immigrants often force – either through verbal and active pressure all the way to violence – their values and culture upon the countries they have immigrated to. Throughout Europe there are no-go zones. Sweden is now second to South Africa in rape due to Muslim men running amok, etc..
    * There is no way to know which Muslim immigrant will hate us and act on it. Even in the military where screening is relatively sophisticated and where Muslim live side-by-side with other military personnel there are innumerable instances of Muslims flipping the switch and killing their fellow soldiers.
    * Second generation Muslims are often more radical than first generation Muslims.
    These are just some of the reasons I am for Hindu or Hispanic immigration but am against Muslim immigration. Islam is unique in more ways than I care to list and only a blowhard liberal would fail to see this.

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Nov 24, 2015 at 9:39 am

    And when that moral high ground results in women raped, cars burned, and no-go zones?

    You’re like every other braindead libtard predicted and described in Thomas Sowell’s books “A Conflict of Visions” and “Vision of the Annointed”. Society and the world can burn, America can fall… but so long as you can thump your chest about how morally superior you are, nothing else matters.