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America the brave 

Regarding a recent commentary by Mr. Kokkonen (“Stay home, terrorists,” Dec. 10) on the need to deny refuge to those displaced by the disastrous situation in the Middle East, I feel that as a foreign-born person he may not quite understand the principle involved. I could not help but note that he used the better part of the article establishing his bona fides as an immigrant and therefore an expert on such matters. Having been born in the United States I cannot claim such expertise, but I feel I do have some understanding of the issue since I married a Swedish immigrant who is presently a permanent resident of this country. For the most part this experience has worked out, and if she should get out of line, I can always demand to see her green card.

What Mr. Kokkonen does not seem to understand is that the America I grew up in was known as the “Land of the Brave,” and that in those days, most decent Americans would have viewed his (and Mr. Trump’s) position on Syrian immigrants as one of despicable cowardice. 

Yet, even in those days, unknown to most of the public, refuge was denied to many thousands of European Jews on the irrational grounds that among them might be a Nazi or two, thereby condemning the vast majority of them to death. At the same time many thousands of Japanese-Americans were unjustly interned in concentration camps because it was feared that their masses might harbor some spies. These actions have long since been recognized and condemned as despicable and cowardly, so how could any decent American, native born or otherwise, condone doing such things again?

America is no longer the land of the brave. A former president once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, and this has proven to be frighteningly true. It was not our former foes in those days of infamy that proved the real threat to the American way of life; it is fear that has proven the real and present danger to our democratic ideals. Since the millennium began, we have been at constant war because of fear.

So I say to all Americans: If you find yourself being afraid, you are being used, and your willing timidity is a disgrace to those ideals and a disgrace to America. Fear, therefore, is un-American, as when we are afraid we are at our very worst. So either knock it off or go someplace else to cower and whine. Surely, there must be some country somewhere desperate enough to give refuge to simpering cowards.

-- Mark Henry - San Luis Obispo

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