What's in a word: In his new executive order, has United States president Donald J. Trump proposed a "Muslim ban?"
Yesterday, the New York Times published two letters on the subject. The second letter writer didn't seem to be buying the use of that term.
He stated no definitive view on the order itself, but seemed to reject the thinking behind the use of the term:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/8/17): While there can be reasoned objections to President Trump’s revised executive order excluding six heavily Muslim countries from entry into the United States, the Op-Ed essay by Farhana Khera and Johnathan Smith (“Don’t Be Fooled, Trump’s New Muslim Ban Is Still Illegal,” nytimes.com, March 6) degenerates into an emotionally charged denunciation of the order as an “all-out assault on Islam and Muslims.” They lose all credibility with that indictment of Mr. Trump.Excitingly, the opinion column in question had used the exciting term, "Muslim ban." This writer stated no definitive view on the executive order itself, but he seemed to reject the use of that thrilling term.
Among the countries not included in the ban are Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. All of them are predominantly Muslim states, and Saudi Arabia in particular is an avowedly Islamic theocracy with a very strict brand of Sunni Islam at the core of its official identity. So how, pray, is President Trump’s visa ban an assault on Islam and Muslims as such?
With respect to the use of that term, we tend to agree with this writer. That could be because, as native speakers of English, we're familiar with the general meaning and application of the familiar term, "ban."
Under the terms of the new order, Muslims will be granted new visas to enter the U.S. from a long list of Muslim nations. Muslims already holding such visas will be admitted from the six nations which are principally affected by the new executive order. (Iraq is no longer affected.)
As such, we aren't sure why a person would want to refer to this as a "Muslim ban." We grant you, though, the use of the term is exciting and signals our moral greatness.
The first letter in yesterday's section stated a different view. The writer of this fiery letter explicitly supported the use of that fiery term:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/8/17): The Trump administration does not have a leg to stand on here. It cannot believe that the ban is truly necessary to protect the United States from a terrorist attack; otherwise it would not have delayed the announcement of the revised ban to allow positive press from the address to Congress to sit for a few days. This ban cannot be about public safety either. Study after study shows that the immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.This writer opposes the new executive order. He's says you're crazy if you don't view it as a "Muslim ban," but he doesn't remember to explain why he holds that view.
To see this order as anything other than a Muslim ban is willful blindness. This is just another tragic example of this astonishing lack of empathy for anyone the administration believes is different.
It seems to us that we liberals need to understand the way we're seen by others. Again and again, people read letters like the second one we've posted and come away thinking we're slightly dumb.
It's also true that the second letter we've presented contains a type of shortcoming which Charlie Peters addressed in his essay this Sunday. It seems to us that its writer fails to understand and address the types of objections The Others might have, rightly or wrongly, to current travel practices.
"Study after study shows that the immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans?" Let's assume that's a valid factual claim. Does the writer understand why some of The Others may say this fact isn't hugely relevant? Has the writer tried to understand the way the world looks to someone who doesn't share his admittedly superior points of view?
At the present time, our liberal team is on the type of stampede which borders on moral rampage. We seem to take pleasure from our use of fiery tribal language.
We seem to enjoy the terms we use and the signals they send about Us and our manifest greatness. Across the country, other people think we're dumb when they see us expounding that way.
Other people roll their eyes. At this point, is it clear that they're wrong?
Solomon splits the difference: Editorially, the New York Times split the baby in half, much as Solomon would have done during an earlier era.
Without explaining their use of the term, the board described the executive order as a "Muslim Ban Lite."
We tend to agree with the newspaper's view of the new executive order. We're still looking for an explanation of the (admittedly thrilling) use of that high-minded term.