Donald Trump Jr, Skittles & Syrian Refugees

28 09 2016

skittlescandypictureLast week Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a picture of a bowl of Skittles with this message:

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

Like many others who protested, I am grieved by the casualness by which someone from a nation at peace can dismiss the horrible sufferings of those fleeing their own nation as victims of terrorism.

The New York Times shares some of the criticism Trump Jr. received after his tweet, including this classic from Binyamin Appelbaum: “Pause to reflect on the fact that this was sent from an iPhone, which was created by [Steve Jobs] the son of a Syrian immigrant.”

Check out the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/21/us/politics/donald-trump-jr-faces-backlash-after-comparing-syrian-refugees-to-skittles-that-can-kill.html

Not only is it cavalier to compare candy to victims of unspeakable atrocities, the “bowl of Skittles” image makes us feel like there’s a high percent chance that someone in the room eating Skittles will die. But both the vetting process and statistics argue otherwise.

John Oliver explains the incredibly difficult 18-24 month process it usually takes for a Syrian refugee to enter America. Step 1 is applying to the UNHCR which generally rejects 99% of applicants. For the lucky 1%, it’s on to Step 2, applying to the US State Department. This includes security screenings by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, Homeland Security, and then extra screenings specifically for Syrians. There is an interview, fingerprinting and a health screening, and the Director of the FBI has to sign off on every single Syrian refugee! Step 3 is cultural orientation, while continued research goes on in the background to make sure no new information would disqualify the refugee. This is the most thorough vetting of anyone in the world trying to gain refugee status in America.

The statistics also refute the Skittles analogy. If there are 3 poison Skittles in a bowl of 300, that’s 1 in 100. But both the New York Times article and John Oliver point to statistics that say 1 in tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or even more would be more accurate.

Check out John Oliver’s video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U-t3GetV_Q

If we deny all Syrian refugees out of fear that one will be a terrorist, what kind of uncompassionate, short-sighted protectionism is this? We could be missing out on a Jerry Seinfeld, Paula Abdul, Johnny Manziel, and as previously mentioned, Steve Jobs.

I’d like to offer a better parallel than Skittles—Italian immigrants to America. The power of the mafia peaked in Italy in the early to mid-1900s. They expanded their operations to other countries including the US, bringing crime and death in their wake. What if we had discovered 60-100 years ago that 1 in 250,000 Italian Americans had connections to the mafia? Should we have closed our doors to Italian immigrants as well? Think of all the trouble it would have saved us!

But we didn’t, and I’m so glad we didn’t! Would American history have been the same without Frank Sinatra, Lee Iacocca, Jack Nicholson, Yogi Berra, Madonna, Jay Leno, Quentin Tarantino, Vince Lombardi, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert DeNiro, Mario Cuomo, Dan Marino, Lady Gaga, Mario Puzo, Rachel Ray, Ray Romano, Selena Gomez, Tommy Lasorda, Rudy Giuliani, Hulk Hogan, Henry Mancini, Sylvester Stallone, Harry Caray, Bradley Cooper, Joe Montana, Bruce Springsteen, Wolfgang Puck, Vin Diesel, Ariana Grande, Nancy Pelosi, Kate Hudson, Mario Andretti, Alicia Keys, John Travolta, Jennifer Aniston, Phil Mickelson, Steve Carell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Demi Lovato, the Jacuzzi family, the Jonas brothers, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, several Nobel Prize winners, plus several thousand more Americans with Italian heritage who are household names? Remove all of them from our history—unimaginable! America wouldn’t be America without them.

Syrians are not Skittles. They are hurting people, victims of the same terrorism we hate. They are also intelligent, skilled, creative human beings who might invent whatever will come after the iPhone. Let’s welcome them with open arms and see how they make our nation of immigrants a richer place.

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For Aspiring Writers

22 09 2016

write-593333_1920   Everywhere I travel and speak, I meet people who are writing or wanting to write. I want to encourage you to go for it! There have never been as many tools and services available for writers as we have now. Professional editors, cover artists, formatters, and marketers are available to make sure the self-published author produces a quality book. And if you want to learn how to do everything yourself, there are tutorials everywhere.

I’ve also met so many helpful people along my writing journey who have taken time to answer my questions, inspire me, or point me in the right direction. If any of you have questions about writing, I’d be happy to do my best to answer them too.

An easy way to ask me what’s on your mind is by adding to the questions I’m already answering at:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/5813900.Jim_Baton/questions

Take a look there at what I’ve already said and add your own writing process queries.

[Please ask questions related to Christian-Muslim relations on my blog Q&A page.]

And if you’ve already written a book but can’t seem to get people to buy it, let me encourage you to not only keep learning about marketing, but to get to work on that second book! I recently read that Ted Dekker (one of my favorite authors) wrote 4 books that were never published before someone liked his 5th book and his career was launched.

I recognize that in the process of writing my first few books, I’m still learning the craft. Hopefully each book gets significantly better.

That’s one reason I’m so excited about my next book hopefully coming out before Christmas—A VIOLENT LIGHT—I think it’s the best written of my books yet. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, puzzling with the main character to figure out what is fear and what is real, with a nail-biting climax that could keep you up all night.

But more about my new book later. Today’s post is to motivate you to a) ask questions, and b) keep writing!





The Best Way to Remember 9/11

11 09 2016

0381Remembering 9/11 can be a sobering time for our nation. The terrorism-caused tragedy traumatized our country in a way few other events ever could. Unfortunately, some choose to use this memory to stir up fear, prejudice and rejection of Muslims.

Others, however, choose to respond in a more positive way. September 11 has now become the date of highest charitable giving in the US–how redemptive is that! Some are choosing to remember by praying for our nation on 9/11. And some are going a step further, to building new relationships with Muslims for peace.

I say this all the time in my blog posts–the best way to ensure that jihadist recruiters in America never get welcomed into a Muslim home is for that home to already have non-Muslim American friends in the living room, helping our Muslim neighbors to feel like they belong in our community.

My good friend Thomas Davis sent me this powerful 5-minute video link to a remarkable church who is doing exactly that. Everyone in America should see this–

https://upstanders.starbucks.com/episodes/04-the-mosque-across-the-street.html

I challenge all my Christian friends today to a fresh commitment, to remember 9/11 by determining in our hearts to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

PS: My e-book SOMEONE HAS TO DIE is still on sale for only 0.99 right here– https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Baton/e/B01G9XGMWQ

Perhaps you know someone who needs to read it. Passing this book on is a great way to remember 9/11 too. 🙂