by Joshua Wakefield
I was watching the early news this morning, and the talking heads were discussing the merits of Donald Trump’s controversial plan to ban all Muslim entry into the United States. With the recent tragedy in San Bernardino, it might appear the vetting process we use to screen immigrants and grant visas is not effective; after all, Tashfeen Malik made it through the process and ended up murdering 14 innocent people. While carefully avoiding any indication of agreement with Trump, but also citing how the vetting process failed with Malik, the suggestion made by the discussion panels was that we need to reach some kind of middle ground. Presumably, this means we need to figure out how to more carefully screen out psychopaths and extremists while avoiding going “total Trump” with an outright ban on Muslims or any other group. “We need to find middle ground!”
No. We do not. The status quo is acceptable as is. What is being called for is impossible.
The fact of the matter is simple: the vetting process we have now works just fine. Talk of post-visa-interview surveillance to weed out people slipping through the cracks, or talk of extra processing for Muslims or people immigrating from war zones won’t do the trick, and at *best* is a slippery slope. People can lie about their religious affiliations, or travel to a neutral country first before coming here. Plus, what judge would grant a warrant to surveil someone simply because they are Muslim? Upon what grounds? Our constitution still applies! They passed their immigration interview, so do you grant the warrant because they are brown and not white? Or because they believe in some other invisible entity than you might? Is that the kind of world you want to live in? This is getting to the heart of the issue. This has to do with what kind of person you want to be, and what kind of world you want to live in. Your thoughts matter.
The blatant truth that no one is talking about is that we can’t scan people’s silent intentions. People lie. And they can do it well. Have you ever heard of a spy? Lying is on the job application. There are gigantic institutions where every single person hired is a wizard-level liar. The CIA and NSA require a regular and non-perfect means of vetting people: they talk to people you know (behind your back), and they use the lie detector. And we know these are not infallible processes. You can beat lie detectors with simple methods (many books on the subject), and we know double agents exist. You *cannot* have perfect information about an individual. This is impossible. Let’s accept it, and move on.
It seems better to me to keep things the way they are and to realize that we do not live in a fully safe world. The two ends of the spectrum are freedom and security. The most secure place in the world is a jail cell, but you have no freedom. And the freest place in the world is the open ocean or outer space, but you have no security. If anything goes wrong, you are, for sure, a dead man.
Why this issue is so hot is because the answer stems from what kind of person you *want* to be; from the kind of nation you want to live in; from what kind of heart you have. So, here is the question: what are your ideals? How do you envision our highest potential as people? As human brothers and sisters? No one is going to give you much heat whatever side of this issue you take. It seems to be pretty much 50/50. What it comes down to is who you want to be as a person. Do you want to live in a world of love and freedom? Or fear and security? Those are the two eternal choices.
If someone is committed to perpetrate a tragedy, no set of rules or procedures will single them out of the crowd. Committed liars are extremely tough to discern from the background noise. We have a choice, therefore, to accept that fact and to live in a world where freedom and love trumps (!!) security and fear, or to choose the opposite. I, for one, choose love and freedom. And I will take my chances, thank you very much. Welcome to America, friends. We’re happy to have you. May the odds be ever in your favor.
About the author:
Joshua Wakefield, born in January of 1981, hails from Manchester, NH. He studied electrical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and chemistry at the University of Rhode Island. He has a wide variety of interests including science, technology, business, politics, guitar, culinary arts, writing, consciousness, utopia, and nature.