Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Turkey with a side of politics


Waukesha Freeman 11/25/15 Page A10 Opinion

Turkey with a side of politics

Melting pot debate simmers through Thanksgiving holiday

One of the unfortunate traditions of Thanksgiving in recent years is the attempt to politicize the classic American holiday. I am not one of those who lament that the stores are open and the Internet is clogged with rapacious consumers. I am one of those who have no desire to debate Obamacare or campus political correctness with a recent graduate of the Think Progress blog who watches every episode of John Oliver to form an opinion on public policy.

There are websites, left and right, offering advice to anyone daring to start a political argument within striking distance of the electric carving knife. Before there is a flying cranberry can “accident” after an exchange of partisan talking points, let me offer some advice. When the political discussion starts, turn up the volume on the football game instead.

As many of you are aware, I am not a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. If I had my way the family would be enjoying turkey egg rolls, sweet and sour turkey, and turkey egg foo young. But my favorite Chinese restaurant is closed for the holiday, probably to get in line for a new television at a Black Friday sale, and we will be dependent on the Germans for their Thanksgiving hospitality. My Irish, English, Polish and Jewish ancestors will be pleased with the German contribution to the Thanksgiving feast, worthy of the American melting pot.

It is the melting pot ideal most discussed this week of Thanksgiving. How welcome is the next generation of would-be Americans and what will we do to keep us from potential harm?

We’re a generous country compared to most in the world when it comes to welcoming new residents. Every day we add new Americans from every corner of the globe, most after a painful application process culminating in raising a hand and vowing to love our country above all others. Still others are allowed into our country as long-term guests to join us in our work to make our country prosperous.

But we’re not debating the latest arrivals from Russia or London or India. We’re debating about what to do with the 10,000 expected refugees from Syria, many of whom are Muslim. Given the terrorist events in Paris, there is an understandable reluctance to accept the refugees into our communities at this time. After all, at least one of the terrorists in Paris may have entered France after first attaining refugee status.

Despite calls for identifying more “acceptable” (Christian) refugees within the group, the serious bipartisan proposal that passed the House of Representatives only called for a pause in the refugee acceptance program until the various agencies could certify they could properly screen and monitor the fleeing Syrians. If the refugee program is as foolproof as we’re being assured by the same people who told us ISIS was “contained” the day before the attack, then they could have no objections to certifying the administration’s readiness to handle the incoming Syrians.

Unfortunately, we’re not given a pause in the politics, let alone the policy. Instead of hearing the concerns of the Republicans and the American people, Democrats are accusing Republicans of xenophobia, and worse. It doesn’t help that the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination, Donald Trump, is being identified with plans to create a national database of Muslims in America and shut down mosques. Now he remembers Muslims in New Jersey cheering on Sept. 11, something few others can remember. (Funny how Trump did not mention it on Sept. 11.) Republican governors, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, stuck their necks out to raise the security concerns and now find themselves debating things Trump said.

Despite Sen. Ron Johnson’s support of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on the refugee issue, Democrats will probably be successful in preventing a vote in the Senate. If only Democrats were as supportive of building a wall on our southern border as they are in building one to protect Obama on the Syria issue. But that would involve actually taking Obama’s critics seriously, and Paris reminded us we’re an unserious people in a serious age.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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