I am, as you are, devastated by the news of Daesh (ISIS) terror attacks in Ankara and then Brussels. Devastated by the Taliban terror attack in Lahore. Devastated for the loss of life, for the loss of peace. But also devastated for the inevitable opportunistic xenophobia that follows an attack like the one in Brussels.
Stealing a move from Trump's playbook, Ted Cruz made an alarming statement in the wake of the attacks in Brussels. He issued a press release saying, "we need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." To which I'd like to respond: I assure you that the only radicalization I am at risk of is radical anti-Republicanism. On a practical level, it's easy to dismiss Cruz's statement as absurd. American Muslims are rarely concentrated in specific neighborhoods, and patrolling these neighborhoods couldn't possibly have an actual effect on rates of radicalization.
But rhetorically, Cruz has moved us one step closer to a fractured democracy. While his words are certainly scary for Muslims, they pose a serious threat to all Americans. The Republicans' inflammatory rhetoric this election cycle has done something remarkable to this country in a very short period of time: It has turned this country into a tinderbox.
We are, at the moment, a country in which violence erupts at presidential campaign rallies with regularity. We are a country in which frontrunners for the presidency demonize entire groups of citizens based on national origin, religious affiliation, and race. Trump appears to be calling upon followers to take up arms to guarantee his election; and was slow to disavow known white supremacists. These organizations are now seeing a dramatic increase in membership and Google searches for related terms has spiked. War-mongering abounds, as does an obvious disregard for the lives of Muslim civilians.
What would it take to light the fire of fear? What would it take to steer this election into the hands of a hateful demagogue? In the wake of 9/11, many of us watched in shock as we destroyed the sovereign nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The horror of the 9/11 attacks were enough to silence any opposition, even though there was no evidence that 9/11 was a state-sponsored attack in which either Afghanistan or Iraq had any involvement. It seems likely that an attack on U.S. soil today would have a dramatic effect on the upcoming elections. It might create unmanageable and even violent chaos in the event of a contested Republican convention; Americans might be more inclined to adopt the combative approach of a Republican candidate, whether or not that candidate sits atop a fractured party. How easy we have made it for terrorists to manipulate our political system.
It seems likely that the resulting chaos would play directly into the hands of terrorists, who would be happy to see our democracy shaken, and to lure America into a "war against Islam." Republican candidates have delivered tremendous power to the door of Daesh by weakening our sense of pluralism and unity. It is terrifying to imagine that with one unsophisticated attack, Daesh could throw our political process into a tailspin and turn us on each other.
Bizarrely, for all of their warmongering, the Republican frontrunners Cruz and Trump have inadvertently joined forces with the most dangerous terrorists of our time. They have, over the last several months, laid the groundwork for their own ascent at the cost of a united America. At this moment in global politics, that exposure is too great. Internal unity is essential to the project of improving American lives, and to the project of understanding and eliminating the threat of terrorism. There is only one way ahead. Together.
And so, I suggest to you that this election cycle has transcended our traditional bipartisan system. It is, above all, important to rebuild our strength through unity; it is essential that every one of us vote against hate.
Peace to you and blessings,