What’s more appealing, confident determination or fear? We’ve seen plenty of both from politicians lately.
At a White House summit Wednesday, President Barack Obama spoke about how we should confront and stop terrorists from spreading their hateful ideology. He tried to make clear that the West is not at war with Islam, that we are fighting the Islamic State and other extremists who want to pervert religion. He acknowledged that some young Muslims in America and Europe have grievances, but that doesn’t justify becoming a jihadi. He’s trying to convince Americans that military force alone can’t defeat terrorism – that this is a longer, generational battle for hearts and minds.
It’s a hard sell, considering how fearful many of us have become. Fear comes naturally in the wake of images of terrorists beheading captives, immolating foes and gunning down unarmed innocents. But we must recognize that such actions are those of cowards.
Refusing to give in to fear is one of the tenets of the Christian bible – the words “Fear not” appear in virtually every book of the old and new testaments. Obama told us we must set aside fear and stand up to those Islamic radicals trying to use Islam as a shield. You might have heard echoes of Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1941 and again in 1945.
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Unfortunately, some people prefer to use fear for their own purposes. Take Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, who wants to raise money to fund her political ambitions. Apparently she’s trying to scare people into giving.
Wednesday, she sent out a fundraising pitch that lumped together all Muslims (#standupagainstIslam) – whether violent extremists or those she termed “peaceful Muslims.” She said later she didn’t mean to offend.
“Amazing how my words can ignite a media storm,” the Riverside County Republican wrote in her fundraising plea. “But there are people being murdered across the ocean, and no one is up in arms about that. ... If you agree with me that we cannot turn a blind eye, and we must stand up to these Islamic savages, then I hope you will join me today.”
Then she asked for $15, $25, $50 or more.
We’re not sure if she’s planning a trip to Syria or just wants to buy ammunition for the forces who actually are standing up to the Islamic State; she didn’t explain. But somehow, we don’t think any of what she raises will be spent on fighting hatred or terrorism.
Melendez claimed the White House is silent on the Islamic State burning a Jordanian pilot alive or beheading Egyptian Christians. She needs to read more newspapers. Obama has routinely condemned those atrocities and on Wednesday he called them “savage cruelties” that must be stopped. More importantly, he ordered American soldiers back into the region – even if we’re mainly on the sidelines so far – to stand beside those fighting the extremists. Our deadly drones are making thousands of flights.
To defeat the extremists, we will need to link arms with Muslims who are equally outraged by the atrocities committed in the name of their religion. Instead of helping create those alliances, statements such as those made by Melendez drive deeper divisions and make such alliances more difficult.
Apparently, that’s not as important as scaring up a few more campaign dollars. Expect more such appeals from others ... unless we ignore the fear and refuse to give.