The Outstater: Civil Rights and Softheadedness — A Distinction

October 1, 2016


Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters - RTR4SDZ6

Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

(For the use of the membership only; not for publication, duplication or quotation.)

AT THIS WEEK’S council meeting in my city, during open comments at the end of the session right before they take out the flag, a question was asked: Did the administration have any information to share on the Mideast immigrants whom the mayor had invited to resettle here?

The sound you heard was a pin dropping. For to merely ask the question was to admit to a politically tortured definition of racism. Accordingly, there was no response, the colors were retired and the meeting promptly adjourned.

The reason the question is anathema is that it falls within “the Selma Syndrome,” the lazy fantasy that we are all living in Selma, Alabama, circa 1965. No, I did not march for civil rights in Selma. I was a college student at the time, though, and followed the news there carefully. And as most of my classmates, I was in the strongest sympathy with Dr. Martin Luther King and his cause.

But you don’t need actual historical memory to see the difference. Look at the pictures of the famous marchers. They were carrying American flags, some Bibles. Their demands were indistinguishable from those of this nation’s founders — to be treated as full and equal citizens of a free society. The Selma marchers did their part, we needed to do ours.

To confuse this heroic stance with that of Syrian refugees today, only seeking convenience, fleeing personal danger of wildly varying degrees including that of their own making, from a distant and hostile culture, their core values and beliefs at odds with our own, values and beliefs which none seem willing to renounce, requires a stretch. Indeed, it requires a dangerous softheadedness.

My mayor blithely signed a letter with two other Indiana mayors asking Barack Obama to resettle Syrian refugees in their cities (an estimated 140 are in Indiana so far, says the Indianapolis Star). These are refugees, please know, that the State Department says cannot be vetted for even the most extreme political or religious beliefs. But you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, the mayor tells his critics.

So the question about whether these guests of the mayor have in fact arrived in town, who exactly they might be and what efforts have been made to ensure both their well-being and ours and at what cost, sits moribund on the council table.

We are left to wonder what will become of a community that political correctness prevents from discussing its very safety, let alone identity. Oh, do I need to mention that the mayor would prefer we not own guns and be especially kind to men dressed like women or vice versa?

— Craig Ladwig


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