While bombs go off, national identity crisis burns on


By Georgie Anne Geyer
Syndicated Columnist

Saturday, December 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — The phrase "self-radicalization" seems to be emerging as a regular part of the national discourse. Every vicious nobody who wants to blaze his name into eternity by planting a bomb somewhere to kill Americans is now described as "self-radicalized" — and that is supposed to make immediate sense of it.

The miscreant doesn't do it, we are told, because he's a classic killer who just likes to see people blown up. And he certainly doesn't do it because when he came here, he carried with him in that hidden satchel of his soul a cultural basis different from the American.

No, 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, who was almost blown up by his own bomb in Manhattan Monday morning, had been self-radicalized! The New York police again immediately announced this. But in fact, the entire concept would be just silly, were it not so deadly serious.

To self-radicalize would actually mean to realize the truth of your inner self and find you are at one with the heinous teachings of a group called ISIS half a world away. If you are taught hatred or bomb-making by TV or social media, that simply amounts to radical teachings by outside forces.

But then, what actually was the problem? Akayed Ullah was from Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most miserable countries on Earth. Formed in 1971, it was originally part of Pakistan....

As of this writing, we know that this unlikely young immigrant received the most wondrous gifts that any highly developed, rich society could offer. The boy from Bangladesh was the winner of not one, but two of the greatest blessings of our unhinged immigration policies.

First, a member of his family had won the infamous American immigration "lottery," which puts citizenship up for win or lose as though we were one big bingo game. Second, Ullah was able to come to America six years ago because of the policy of "chain migration" or "family reunification," in which immigrants already here legally can bring numerous relatives to America.

Most of these policies came out of the immigration reform of 1965 based essentially on the idea that human beings are interchangeable. Don't bother about culture; just change the scenery. Centuries of family or religious tradition? Unimportant! Men and women from anywhere will come here and automatically be "American."

If we kept the numbers of immigrants to a reasonable percentage of the population, if we had civic education programs in the schools for immigrants and citizens alike, and if we were truly serious about assimilating newcomers — well, then there might be a chance that none of them would radicalize. But we don't have any of those things.

In fact, chain migration today accounts for a massive 70 percent of legal immigrants to America, so there is simply no space or time in our immigration policies for admitting others on merit.

Meanwhile, the immigration debate takes two extreme left-right positions: the Trumpian position, which tends toward "Keep them all out!" and the sentimentalist liberal position that says, in effect, that a boy cultivated by the perfervid Islam of Bangladesh is exactly the same as a boy from Copenhagen or Prague and will respond to America in the same manner.

There is one predominant problem in the world today, and it is the massive movement of either deeply dissatisfied or downright desperate peoples.

From Berlin to Ohio and from Hungary to West Virginia, the Western world is struggling to define and defend its identity against outsiders. That is Brexit, and that is Angela Merkel's problem in Germany, and that is Donald J. Trump's election.

Now, you may not like President Trump. But the immigration/identity question is so crucial to stability in today's world that Democrats and liberals would be smart to co-opt this issue instead of criticizing Trump over it, because it will not go away. Any intelligent policy would start by abolishing chain immigration and our self-imposed humiliation of visa lotteries.

An unemotional, intelligent analysis of the world would acknowledge that this country was formed based on the Judeo-Christian heritage, mostly Protestantism. And while we have utmost respect for those great periods of Islam ... we can afford to absorb, and we should only take, an appropriate number of Muslim immigrants, given the extreme differences in modern-day beliefs between them and us.

Maybe I've become self-radicalized myself on this issue; or maybe I'm just pushing for a reasonable, moderate and workable immigration policy in America so we don't have any more bombs going off in our streets. And maybe I'm just wondering: Hey, why don't we all get to work?

Georgie Anne Geyer is an international correspondent.