It seems that an increasing number of people are beginning to see the irony (and correlate hypocrisy) in the rightwing messaging around the issue of ‘terrorism.’ The right continually tells us that we have to be ‘strong’ and that we can’t be afraid of terrorism. They tell us that we have to go about our business (sometimes even literally – recall Bush telling us to go shopping after 911) and lead our normal lives because this is the way to beat the terrorists. Yet the entire rightwing narrative is about the very opposite; they are entirely driven by fear and are willing to change the very principles of our government and society in the face of a handful of terror related deaths.
But we are slowly seeing the emergence of different narrative and it is coming around the refugee issue. While our rightwing politicians are telling us to be afraid, to change everything about ourselves (thus essentially by their own standards letting the terrorists achieve exactly what they are aiming at), progressives are the ones really telling us not to change for terrorists, not to be driven by fear. A central element of this narrative is that we continue to take lots of refugees. Though this effort is motivated by a desire to do the right thing, it has the knock-off effect of doing exactly what the terrorists don’t want us to do. Because by not being driven by fear, by welcoming thousands of refugees countries like Canada can show that we are a welcoming society and not the anti-Muslim monsters that groups like ISIS tell their potential constituency we are.
This is exactly the kind of strategy that progressive need in their current struggle against the right. For far too long we have let the rightwing get away with portraying us as weak when exactly the opposite is true. The rightwing are the weak ones. They are weak because they are driven by fear, because they don’t have the courage to be straight-up and honest about their agenda, because they are willing to let a couple of relatively small terrorists attack undermine the principles of openness and freedom that we have worked so hard for, because they are too weak to compromise on anything, to ever admit they’re wrong, or to engage in actual discourse. That is real weakness!
Remember the old Lincoln quote that “no one stands as tall as when they stoop to help a child.” The real strength, the strength that the rightwing doesn’t have, is the ability to lend a helping hand when someone is trying to stop you, to stick to your principles in the face of hardship, to look for new solutions and take thousands of refugees when ISIS wants us to hunker down, abandon our principles, be driven by fear, and adopt our worst instincts of hate. The rightwing is quick to lower themselves to the very attitude of their supposed enemy. But progressives know better and it is about time that we demonstrate that we are the ones with real strengths – the strengths of acceptance, of love in the face of hate, of principle and hope in the face of fear, of discourse in the face of violence, and of helping the weak and vulnerable. Violence doesn’t take courage, hate doesn’t require bravery or determination, and anger doesn’t require will power. Anger fear and hate have always been the watchwords of the rightwing, not ours. The rightwing and the racists in this country are small, petty people who want to appear strong but are only guilty of peddling fear and weakness. When Harper and his cabal tried to generate fear of religious freedom to win an election, they were demonstrating their true weakness. They were so weak that they attempted to abandon hundreds of years of progress because they were trembling with fear in the face of one woman in a niqab. The rightwing are similar to the terrorists in this sense – it is not bombs and war that they fear; what they really fear is the effort it takes to accept, to cooperate, to embrace, to love, and to build.
As progressives we won’t embrace their fear and we won’t be turned aside. Brad Wall and Rona Ambrose and the rest of the cowardly lot may be shaking in fear in the face of 25 thousand refugees but I’m not.