LETTER: Fear of foreigners leads to abhorrent actions

To the editor:

I read Robert Lee’s column while visiting downtown New York City. Just moments earlier, we were sharing the sidewalks with folks from every walk of life. A West African cabbie drove us from the airport. We often could not understand the mix of languages we heard as we strolled along, but I could understand the wonder registered in many of their faces as they beheld what the great city had to offer. NYC provides an ongoing lesson to America: ever-changing, always vibrant — able to shrug off the bad that comes along, while profiting from fresh talents and creativity.

During times of perceived threat, there is, typically and understandably, a reflexive desire to push back in order to protect our country. Sometimes we raise the bridges over our moats and permit Big Brother to open an all – seeing eye a little wider upon us. We must never allow, though, such restraints upon press or citizens that would prevent question or pushback against government when it treads down these legislative paths.

Government does, indeed, go too far occasionally. Consider President Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-American citizens, or President Lincoln’s suspension of constitutional protections such as habeas corpus. Protecting our security, or unfair overreaches? History isn’t always kind.

The McCarran Act, extolled by Mr. Lee, was passed during a time of fear and hysteria in America. Though overridden, President Truman wisely vetoed it. He noted its threat to our freedoms, calling it a “long step toward totalitarianism.” While initially deferential, even the Supreme Court soon grew more skeptical, eventually overruling its requirement that communists register with the government.

As President Trump attempts to restrict dangerous foreigners from our shores, he should be encouraged — even required — to grapple with who else he may be keeping out. As surely as he wants to drain Washington’s “swamp,” he should be eager to drain the brains of nations that are foolish enough to push them from their borders.

Douglas Smith