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Back to the future

Back to the future

German-born physicist Albert Einstein (left) and his daughter Margaret take the oath of U.S. citizenship. (American Stock/Getty Images)

Donald Trump came under new political and journalistic attack on Aug. 15 after he proposed limiting admission to the United States to “those who share our values and respect our people.” He spoke of excluding not only terrorist sympathizers but believers in Sharia law who “support bigotry and hatred” and do not support the U.S. Constitution.

The horror! Joe Biden of course pounced: “Trump has no clue what it takes to lead this great country.” The Washington Post called Trump’s remarks “false and facile.” Other publications attacked Trump’s purported extremism. But millions of Americans are here because their ancestors signed “declarations of intention” similar to what Trump is suggesting.

For example, here’s what Albert Einstein swore to in 1936 on his way to becoming a U.S. citizen: “I will, before being admitted to citizenship, renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty; … I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy.” My immigrant grandfather signed a similar declaration in 1914.

“Anarchist” a century ago was the equivalent of “terrorist” now, since some anarchists planted bombs and one had assassinated President William McKinley. Since Sharia law allows and even proposes polygamy as an act of justice—see Sura 4, verse 3 in the Quran—U.S. law excluded Sharia-embracing Muslims. The renouncing of other allegiances was also important: No divided loyalties.

Declarations of intention were not new: They originated with the Naturalization Act of 1795. Undoubtedly, some newcomers in 1914 or 1936 lied, but the declaration ended with SO HELP ME GOD in capital letters, and that would stifle the impulse among some. It’s also important to note that these declarations pertained to those becoming citizens, not to all new arrivals: Taking in refugees is also part of the American tradition, and U.S. exclusion of escapees from a Hitler-threatened Europe is a dark historical episode.

Pundits now can reasonably debate whether Trump’s proposals for entry are too tough, but to reject them out of hand displays historical illiteracy. The 1924 immigration law wrongly discriminated against some refugees on racial and ethnic grounds, but why is it illegitimate to take values and beliefs into account when deciding immigration policy? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Emma Lazarus wrote in her poem featured at the Statue of Liberty: We wanted such yearners, and we didn’t want embracers of enslavement.

At this point we should not be shocked by knee-jerk journalistic reactions to anything Trump says, but I’m still waiting for knights of the keyboard in New York and Washington to save everyone’s time by stating at the beginning of each political article, “Donald Trump is evil. His supporters are idiots. We’re not going to think through his proposals, and you should not either.”

The Huffington Post now appends to each story about him this editor’s note: “Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims—1.6 billion members of an entire religion—from entering the U.S.” The New York Times should clearly display its bias as well, but best of all would be an honest depiction of the other candidate: “Hillary Clinton regularly incites class warfare and is a constant liar, rigid ideologue, abortion expander, radical feminist, and screecher who has greedily put the interests of her Clinton Foundation above the human rights of millions of people.”

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Aug. 6 at least recognized the problems both candidates have with the truth, but wrote that “if deception were a sport, Trump would be the Olympic gold medalist; Clinton would be an honorable mention at her local Y.” Several paragraphs later, Kristof liked his sports imagery so much that he came up with this darling: Clinton’s lies are “junior varsity mendacity. In contrast, Trump is the champ of prevarication.”

After making those comparisons, Kristof compared Trump and Clinton once more, said the Republican is a worse liar, and closed his column, “Honestly, there is no comparison.” Obviously, there is, and I’d compare Trump’s off-the-cuff fact-slaughters with Clinton’s premeditated murdering of truth. Odd: In some elections the candidates’ positions are not all that different, so character is king. In this Reckless vs. Ruthless election, with both candidates deficient, we need to scrutinize their proposals and advisers, and that’s where reporters are also letting us down.

Comments

  • Herb
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 09:29 am

    Most Americans are not very knowledgeable about history...

  •  austinbeartux's picture
    austinbeartux
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 11:25 am

    It really, really, really hurts to say this, but. . .I agree with Trump's position.  He's right.

  •  Greg Mangrum's picture
    Greg Mangrum
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 10:59 pm

    You shouldn't be sorry. I liken it to a company hiring someone (usually on an agreed to probationary period) and expecting him or her to be true to the company, not their competitors. I believe this ethic can and should be applied to immigrants of free nations as well.

  • dawntreader
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 01:27 pm

    Thanks Marvin - there's a lot of good thought in this that needs dissemenation in bite-size portions to our friends and neighbors.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 01:56 pm

    I agree with Mr. Olasky.  Unfortunately Mr. Trump will have to fight much harder to get the truth of this point across because he has been so foolish so frequently in other areas.

  • Karen for Life
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 04:53 pm

    It is so sad we have this horrible choice.  I keep praying for God to intervene with a "ram in the thicket" as someone said--someone to spare us of having to choose either one of them.

  • Ben K
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 06:45 pm

    Your piece here is much needed, and so timely - particularly: "...and that’s where reporters are also letting us down."

  • TomLR Las Vegas
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 08:05 pm

    I appreciate that, in light of the fact Hillary Clinton would finish forever the eradication of America Obama has, after his predecessors, practically achieved, WORLD is beginning to see the paramount importance of doing all we can to stop her from taking the White House.  Remember, the Supreme Court and all lower ones are at stake--enjoying "gay marriage" and "transgender" bathrooms as law of the land, everyone?--and Trump has many valuable governing advisors.  

    In this fallen world we must choose the best of less than terrific options often in life and don't make an issue of it.  I opt for the positive view that I'm selecting the very best available for the future of our nation, our children and grandchildren, and especially for God's will and people. Between Clinton and Trump there's no contest and, barring our Creator/Redeemer supernaturally stepping in, one of them will be President.  Trump has promised to uphold Biblical Christianity, secure our borders, do all possible to keep out Islamist murderers, take government off the backs of businesses, negotiate trade deals which don't punish this country, protect the 2nd Amendment, put conservative originalist judges in office, and enact or promote many other productive conceptions for our nation.  By working at this point to get him elected, I'll know I tried my hardest to benefit America at the time it was nearly destroyed.

    If you cast your Presidential ballot for anyone other than Trump you're helping Hillary into the Oval Office; the policies of Obama will have been accelerated and completed, and the United States of America will be no more.  At almost any other time this would be hysterical hyperbole, but let me ask you: have you been awake the last few years and seen what's been happening?

    Over every prayer and endeavor I state as my wondrous Lord did, "Nevertheless, Father, Thy will be done."  2 Chronicles 7:14 is critical for all of us who claim the Son of God as Savior.  We are allowed, though, to make our requests, always mindful of Who it is we're making them to.  I'm voting and campaigning for Trump and asking the only and sovereign God to have His way.    

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sat, 08/20/2016 09:21 am

    TomLRLV:  A reasonable post.  I appreciate your stance on the matter, although I disagree with your opinion that we Christians need to see the choice as binary.  From a purely mathematical and political point of view, you are correct:  a vote not for Trump helps Clinton.  But the converse is also true, and I am surprised that Christians have not thought of a third option:  writing God in for president, which I plan to do if both candidates continue as is.  I know that this is quite outside the box, but imagine the point that we can get across if God made just 1% of the tally?  That would require approximately 1.3 million votes, based on 2012 tallies--definitely achievable.  Gary Johnson did the same thing, and he is the talk of the town this year!  Call me bonkers, but I believe that if we Christians just toe the line of convention, then we will truly be on the fast track to losing our privileges, regardless of who wins the presidency this year.

    To illustrate:  we face Scylla and Charybdis.  In which direction do we go?  Scylla?  Charybdis?  Or right between the two, and pray to God for the rest?

  • Laura W
    Posted: Mon, 08/22/2016 09:55 am

    Yes, a vote not for Hillary helps Trump, but I don't think that many Christians would conclude that Hillary represents Biblical values and principles better than Trump does--just that it's hard to see much difference between them. So if very many Christians abstain by writing in "God", the net effect is very likely to be a percentage gain for Hillary. I think it's a matter of conscience whether Christians do abstain on the presidential vote this time around, but keep in mind that this likely would increase Hillary's chances of being elected over Trump's. I'm probably going to go with Trump just because I don't think he's really actively trying to do anything I disagree with, while Hillary definitely is.

  • sanman101
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 11:28 am

    Excellent analysis, as usual.  And a great reminder of history!

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 01:09 pm

    Really really good.

    Trump's recent hiring of Stephen Bannon means a recognition that traditional politics (i.e., consultants) is being replaced by Hollywood's approach, simply marketing.