Bannister: American people cannot succumb to fear

Edmund Bannister, Columnist

In the aftermath of the Brussels attacks there are and will continue to be countless articles, studies and opinion pieces published about the implications of ongoing Islamist violence in the center of Europe. These articles will likely speak of domestic security failures, the radicalization of Muslim youths, the European refugee crisis and countless other topics both directly and tangentially related to the events in Belgium.

Like many others, I am deeply disturbed by the ongoing capacity of terrorist organizations like ISIS to generate recruits and launch attacks in the heart of the West. I am even more unsettled by the ongoing chaos in the Middle East, and the wholesale collapse of the Libyan, Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni states. More and more, I grow increasingly pessimistic to the notion that my generation will see an end to terror and the war against terror in our lifetimes. After 15 years of war, the most powerful country on earth, and all of our many allies seem unable to contain the extremist violence metastasizing throughout the world.

As we in the United States face the threat of jihadism, the most pressing long-term issue is how to psychologically and politically cope with future attacks. The fear generated by bombings and shootings in Europe and the Middle East, let alone the American homeland, is tremendous. If moderate, tolerant heads don’t prevail, this fear could pose a serious threat to our civil liberties, our values and our security. Increased violence doesn’t only swell the ranks of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. It also gives unprecedented political power to ultranationalist and xenophobic right-wing politicians, both in Europe and the United States.

The ever-increasing popularity of right-wing parties in Europe like the National Front in France, UKIP in the United Kingdom, AfD in Germany and Golden Dawn in Greece, directly coincides with the refugee crisis and the uptick in terrorism. The economic burdens of integrating refugees, fears of violence and underlying cultural tensions have introduced an increasingly radical element into the traditionally boring European political scene. Countries that have been bastions of civil liberty, tolerance, prosperity and democracy seem increasingly at the mercy of dogmatic, angry politicians whose policies infringe on the civil liberties of citizens and alienate European Muslims. The recent surge in nationalist sentiment and calls to close European internal borders are endangering the health and continued existence of the European Union itself.

In the United States, political conditions aren’t much better. The likely nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, has shocked the world with his increasingly xenophobic rhetoric, directed at Mexican immigrants and Muslims. The second-strongest Republican candidate, Ted Cruz, has echoed Trump’s sentiments. At the present time it is unclear whether Trump and Cruz are actual zealots or merely political opportunists, exploiting public fear for their own political advancement. Either way, Trump’s tightening grip on the Republican Party proves the impact uncertainty and fear can have on an electorate.

Edmund Bannister is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.