Trump’s Anti-Muslim Ban: A Pitfall for All Unalienable Rights?
[Last week I published a critique of Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. As you might expect, I found myself responding to critical comments, including one from a longtime friend who said that it is was one of the few times he found himself in disagreement with my thinking. I thought my reply, somewhat amplified, might be of interest to my readers here:]:
Since I respect your judgment, I would be glad to read and ponder the argument you make in support of Trump’s original proposal- i.e., not the “ban on Muslim immigration” some are willing to pretend he advocated, but the ban on all Muslim entry into the U.S. he actually proposed. Depending on facts and circumstances, I would support, and have supported, the idea of a moratorium on immigration. And to give us time to restore the bureaucratic ethos Obama has damaged, which assures proper vetting of immigrant applicants, I would support it now.
Even in that case, however, I’m not sure the Muslim label is the proper rubric for administering the pause. I would have to be convinced that regional and associational rubrics will not serve the purpose just as well, Why? Because there is a very serious cost involved in appearing to treat all Muslims, as such, as suspected terrorists. Our country would pay a price in terms of aggravated threats to our security, our domestic peace, and our economic well-being, including the degradation of diplomatic and business relations that are vital to our moral and material interests.
When it comes to banning all Muslim, as such, from entry, those costs appear to be excessive on the face of it. Anytime we suspend the Constitution’s respect for unalienable right (and the fair treatment of other human beings is an unalienable right, i.e., something that is right according to the rule of reason (which is the law of God in our nature), we strike at the foundations of our national existence. But in ways too numerous to mention, we also attack our productivity, in terms of national income, scientific research and advancement, and quality of life. For in addition to being a republic of right and rights, including liberty, we are a commercial republic. Anything that unduly constrains the daily exchange of goods and services that sustains our commerce, damages our substance, decreasing our wherewithal for every activity we undertake.
To be sure, digital communications somewhat mitigate this detrimental effect on our commerce. But in our present precarious economic condition, I would need to be convinced that we’ve now reached the point where we can simply dispense with the personal presence of Muslims from the Islamic world (which includes not only the Middle Eastern countries, but others like Indonesia, and also European countries like Great Britain). Since at this point we’re barring the door after the fact, is the (possibly false) perception of security that it produces worth the likely disruption of our relations with those countries? Their governments may think it necessary to take action to keep from being seen as complicit in the perceived insult to all Muslims. To our great disadvantage, this perception would certainly be exploited by all our competitors and enemies, not just the Islamic terrorists. At the very least, there would be foregone opportunity costs involved, that have to be assessed and taken into account.
You and I both know that Donald Trump spoke for effect, and without regard to this complex of considerations. Yet it is essential to weigh them as accurately as possible, lest we stumble blindly into counter-productive, self-destructive actions. Simply agreeing with Trump’s careless rhetoric, instead of being honest about its deficiencies, sets us up for failure and betrayal.
Once he’s in office Trump will have to consider everything I’ve mentioned above and then some. That consideration will offer him more than a few plausible opportunities to back away from his rhetorical policy. He will “grow in office”, on account of being better instructed than it was possible to be before being fully briefed as President. If, as I am morally convinced, such duplicity is part of his purpose and intention, the failure to raise these issues now will leave the people he has gulled in no position to decry his retreat as treachery.
The same can be said of almost every boisterous stand Trump is deploying. This is classic demagoguery, but in this case it produces a concrete consequence. It leaves a record of applause for his disregard of the language of the Constitution. If we are silent in that respect now, because of the understandably negative anti-Muslim feelings produced by the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, what ground will we have to insist on rigorous respect for the Constitution when it comes to other expedient measures that are likewise destructive of human liberty?
In the instance before us much turns on the significance of the word “person” used in the 5th Amendment. On the face of it, that word refers to any and all human beings. We know from the original Constitution that it did not refer simply to citizens of the United States, since it was used in reference to slaves in the clause (Article I.2) intended to keep the voting power of the slave states from increasing in full measure with the increase in their enslaved population.
This is clear evidence that the U.S. Constitution means for the word “person” in the 5th amendment to apply to all people. Some people carelessly assume that once this evidence is disregarded, the term applies only to citizens of the United States. But as it applies without regard to humanity, so it applies without regard to citizenship, since the sovereign authority by which the people of the United States have jurisdiction over their territory is ultimately a function of their God-endowed right to constitute a government for themselves. But they have this sovereign right, in the first place, as an unalienable aspect of their nature as human beings. It is not just incidental to their participation in this or that humanly contrived polity. This implies that the expedient prerogative that sanctions the disregard for humanity in the case of Muslims sanctions disregard of the unalienable rights that attach to humanity in any case in which justify the same expediency.
Thus our God endowed reason impels us to see the prudence in Christ’s admonition to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. For example, Christian opposition to the gay assault on the God-endowed family is now being treated as an unjust violation of right, so distressing to others that it disturbs the peace and order of society. Are we ready to see blanket prohibitions, based simply on the general profession of Christian faith, used to keep Christians outside the bounds of education, the military, the bureaucracy, etc. without due process of law?
Judges have already commenced to impose this result. The notion that the 5th Amendment’s terms may be expediently interpreted, already advanced in cases having to do with the so-called “Patriot Act”, will only be confirmed and extended once the expedient disregard of religious liberty has been applauded by Christian leaders, whose apprehension of Islamic terror leads them to help the elitist faction’s would-be tyrants dig the pit into which these Christian leaders will themselves be pushed, in the fullness of time.
Trump’s careless rhetorical posturing is a trap. We must look carefully at its logical substance and implications, and stand against him, as warranted by that scrutiny. For he paves the way, for himself or someone else to assume the role of “Absolute Leader” Putin’s intended praise ascribes to him. God help us if we don’t see the ominous implications of that praise, before experience verifies what Trump’s acceptance of it already suggests: That it is a portent of tyranny for all.
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