This is an expanded version of a Facebook post I wrote for Hope Projects, which you can see here.
Where do I even start? How can any of us make sense of the juggernaut of misery that has been the first week of Trump’s presidency?
For me, the key to understanding it was the executive order on immigration. This, among other things, stopped all refugee resettlement in the US for 120 days, indefinitely signed immigration from Syria and temporarily stopped all arivals from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. This struck me forcibly partly because of the appalling symbolism of it being signed on Holocaust memorial day. Can you really not see any hint of a connection here, Donald? People who died at the hands of an horrific persecution they couldn’t flee, and an order stopping people fleeing from persecution? But partly because of a line be used in justifying it. ‘We must learn the lessons of 9/11’. Now I’m not American, and this is treacherous ground to tread on, but just what lessons?
None of the 9/11 hijackers were refugees. Not one. They were in the US on tourist or business visas. 15 of the 19 were from Saudi Arabia, the others from the UAE, Egypt and the Lebanon. Oddly, none of the countries specifically mentioned in the order. Rather valued business partners of the West.
Now refugees are like any other people. Some good, some bad. They’re usually pretty resilient and resourceful, because frankly the ones that weren’t didn’t make it. But look at this from the point of view of a terrorist. I want to get into another country without coming to the attention of the authorities. To be recognised as a refugee I have to claim asylum. I have to go to the government, be photographed and fingerprinted, have my background scrutinised by people who are actively looking for a reason to refuse me; conscientiously seeking inconsistencies and then regularly report to them. Why in God’s name would I do that? If I had any money I’d apply for a business visa. Governments know that successful business people sometimes have, how shall I put it, colourful pasts. It’s how they got rich. But they want the money, they crave the investment. They don’t want to pry too closely. That would constitute Red Tape, which is a Bad Thing.
So what’s the connection between refugees and 9/11? There is none. But if you say the words together often enough in the same sentence, you can make the people who just don’t like refugees, don’t really like any foreigners feel good about it. It’s not racism, it’s national security. We’re seeing the same thing happen in the UK, just in a slightly more subtle way. We have to call it out as nonsense, and poisonous nonsense, before it gets immovably stuck in the national consciousness.