The Worst of Circumstances 

Terrorism, refugees and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's remarks

As surely as the sun rises and winter leads to snow, trust in Idaho leaders to stumble over themselves in a race to be counted on the wrong side of a major issue. The tally of wrongheaded stances has become tedious and a recounting would eat the entirety of this space. Suffice to say, here we are again.

Terror bombings in Beirut, followed a day later on Nov. 13 by coordinated assaults on Paris, have left as many as 170 people dead and hundreds more wounded. Amid the mourning comes a wave of anti-refugee sentiment. A sympathetic reading of this reaction would suggest it's an (admittedly weak) attempt to rationalize a horrific event. Rationality, however, is as far removed from most Idaho lawmakers as the sites of these tragedies.

As Facebook fills with tricolor statements of solidarity, and calmer heads remind us now is precisely the time to recommit to ideals of inclusion and empathy, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wasted no time hoisting his own flag:

"It makes no sense under the best of circumstances for the United States to allow people into our country who have the avowed desire to harm our communities, our institutions and our people. While I understand that immigration and refugee resettlement are authorized under federal law, I am duty-bound to do whatever I can to protect the people of Idaho from harm."

It would take a constitutional scholar, political scientist, psychiatrist and historian to adequately pick apart everything that's wrong with that statement. What's most galling is the suggestion that "under the best circumstances" (presumably when no one actually wants to emigrate to the United States?), it is better for our so-called "city on a hill" to be a gated community.

At what time has anyone remotely suggested the U.S. invite those with the "avowed desire to harm our communities" move to this country? Does Otter think so little of our national tradition, which explicitly states this is a nation open to all "yearning to breathe free"? When we decide that sentiment is naive, or in some way threatening, we might as will ship that big green statue in New York Harbor back to the people who gave it to us.

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