Hours after news broke of the deadly attacks in Brussels, Texas senator and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz released a statement concerning a “coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS.” His plan read, in part:
“We will do what we can to help [Europe] fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
Part of this Trumped-up talk is hardly new. “Halt the flow of refugees” is just one iteration of our time-honored tradition of racist xenophobia. Indeed, our own Governor Greg Abbott made news last fall when he vowed to keep Syrians fleeing civil war and unrest out of Texas. He failed, of course, because deciding who is granted refugee status, and where they end up, is not actually up to Greg Abbott, much to the chagrin of Greg Abbott.
So too, “empower law enforcement” is pretty standard at the moment, with right-wing politicians taking up the call to defend our nation’s helpless and disrespected militarized police forces from the meanies who would like them to stop killing unarmed people of color.
But “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” in the context of doing so inside the United States, caught my eye. Cruz wants to make sure terrorism doesn’t happen “here.” He’s not talking about America empowering, say, Dutch police to “secure” neighborhoods there.
He’s talking about surveilling and “securing” American cities based on suspicions about the faith of the people who call those neighborhoods home.
I’m not going to do the thing where I point out the obvious correlation between the implications of this thing Cruz has proposed — installing a state police presence to monitor the activities of a specific religious group — and a thing that a certain other right-leaning political leader proposed, and later literally executed, in 1930s and 1940s Europe. You’re probably already making that connection, so you don’t need my help.
Let’s talk about the sheer logical failure of Cruz’s proposal as a means by which to “utterly destroy ISIS.”
Experts have identified a number of causes of terrorism, but some of them include: a feeling of being disrespected and othered by a bullying force, and the violence and unrest that follows an invading state’s disregard for socio-cultural norms and boundaries. Basically, when people feel like they’re being disrespected and displaced by people who don’t like, accept or understand their culture and their faith, they get angry and violent. (Sound familiar?)
Ted Cruz’s plan to “utterly destroy” terrorism is a plan to utterly encourage it.
Now, “patrol,” I can figure out. I presume Cruz wants to see tanks rolling in circles around Houston’s 50 or so mosques. He’ll probably want to station a couple of Christian cops (maybe ones who pass a Rafael Cruz-approved religious test?) in one of those surveillance pods they put in mall parking lots during the holiday (I mean Christmas, dammit!) rush.
I’m not quite sure what Cruz means by “securing” Muslim neighborhoods (or how he thinks he’s going to identify them in the first place), but it’ll be hard to keep anything “secure” unless we know who needs keeping an eye on and who doesn’t. Easiest way to do that? Armbands or patches with religious insignias, of course, but I promised I wasn’t drawing those kinds of correlations right now.
Maybe we’ll just have checkpoints at Middle Eastern grocery stores and restaurants. You know, wherever Cruz’s idea of a questionable element pops up in “neighborhoods.” And we won’t be able to Keep America Safe™ if we’re just letting people run around willy-nilly. No, that would be highly dangerous. Curfews will be necessary to keep everything secure.
Let’s think about what all that would look like, and let’s think about what we know causes people to join violent extremist religious groups and commit acts of terrorist violence, especially suicide attacks: foreign military occupation.
“Patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” sounds like foreign military occupation, at home. It sounds like the same kind of American soldier-cowboy fantasy that fueled the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It sounds like the kind of thing that got us here in the first place.