More leaves, Beethoven ballet, and fear of refugees
by Rob Tiller
Last week Jocelyn took over her cell phone account, thereby cutting the last part of the financial cord from home. Oh happy day! The timing was good, in that she’d recently gotten a promotion and a substantial salary increase. She asked me for my Verizon password to do the changeover, and I told her I didn’t believe I had one. But she found out that I did, and hacked into it after correctly answering my security question. I was both proud and a little unsettled.
On Saturday morning I went up to Durant Park and took the trail around the lower lake. It was chilly, still, and very clear. I was looking for leaf colors and patterns, and particularly for some reds and oranges , of which there were only a few. I got close to another great blue heron, but unlike the one last week, this one flew off as soon as I came into sight.
Saturday evening we had dinner with friends at Sono and then went to see the Carolina Ballet’s Beethoven Ninth program. The dancer we’ve been sponsoring, Alyssa Pilger, was recently promoted from the corps to soloist, and she had good solos in the Beethoven. There’s an ethereal quality to Alyssa’s dancing – light and evanescent – but at the same time commanding and incisive. The Beethoven was powerful, and she delivered, brilliantly.
The famous choral Ode to Joy at the end of the Beethoven is always inspiring, and the message of the universal brotherhood seemed particularly timely this week, when a lot of U.S. politicians responded to the Syrian refugee crisis by seeking to keep them out. This is disgraceful. I thought the New York Times editorial on Saturday put the problem well:
After the attacks in Paris, the world is again challenged by fear. With every bombing, beheading and mass shooting, the dread spreads, along with the urgency of defeating this nihilism.
But no less a challenge for the civilized world is the danger of self-inflicted injury. In the reaction and overreaction to terrorism comes the risk that society will lose its way.
History is replete with examples of the power of fear and ignorance, to which even the great can fall prey. Franklin Roosevelt calmed a nation in bleakest days of the Depression, but he also signed the executive order imprisoning tens of thousands of American citizens for the crime of Japanese ancestry.
In our time, disastrous things have been done in the name of safety: the invasion of Iraq, spawned by delusion and lies; the creation of an offshore fortress, sequestered from the Constitution, to lock up those perceived as threats, no matter the cost and injustice; an ever-expanding surveillance apparatus, to spy on the people, no matter the futility.
Al Qaeda and the Islamic State did not compel us to shackle ourselves to a security state, or to disgrace our values by vilifying and fearing. refugees and immigrants.
Along this same line, Nicolas Kristof had a good column in today’s Times. Kristof calculates that the risk of a refugee turning out to be a terrorist attacker is about 100 times smaller than that the a given resident of Florida will turn out to be a murderer in a ten-year period. He notes, “When we’re fearful we make bad decisions. That was true around World War II, when we denied refuge to European Jews and interned Japanese-Americans. That was true after 9/11, when we invaded Iraq and engaged in torture.”