Gov. Abbott Isn’t Racist. In the Aftermath of Paris, He’s Scared

Why he refuses to let Syrian refugees in.

Gov. Greg Abbott (Photo: Wikicommons)
Gov. Greg Abbott (Photo: Wikicommons)

Greg Abbott wants to lock the doors. Liberals are wrong to think that Governor Abbott is posturing. When Abbott, a good, Christian man, announced that Texas is closed to Syrian refugees, he wasn’t just out to score political points, although the sentiment will obviously be popular here. He wasn’t just trying to get attention or exploit a tragedy. Abbott is trying his best to protect the people who already live in Texas. This doesn’t prove that he’s a racist. It proves that he’s scared.

And he should be. The stories coming out of Egypt and Lebanon and Paris—where terrified concert goers ran and had to take shelter in the apartments of strangers—are utterly horrific. If he takes the terrorists at their word—and he should—they will strike again, and again after that, and after that, too, and the targets could be anyone or anything: concerts, stadiums, crowded markets. Innocent couples out to dinner. Children in the streets. People who just want to enjoy a Friday night with their friends. There will be more death, and Abbott, a devoted man, doesn’t want that for the people of Texas. That’s not wrong.

I like to think Greg Abbott in the safety of a warm Paris apartment, maybe a block or two from that concert hall. I imagine him in the chaos, with shots cracking and bodies spilling, as people ducked and ran and hid under dead bodies and jumped out windows, where at least one person clung by fingertips for safety. Inside, men (and, reports say, at least one woman) with AK47s stalked concert goers, shooting everyone they could. Though nobody in Texas knows for sure yet, it seems like at least some of the terrorists are from Syria, and some may have gotten into Europe by pretending to be refugees. And outside, before the police arrived, the few who managed to escape—either while the terrorists were looking elsewhere, or while they were reloading—were running to safety. The wounded hobbled or hopped, leaving behind bloody trails as they moved.

At the time, not everyone knew the city was under attack. At least one person who managed to escape that concert hall ran so far and so fast that he ended up on a subway full of people wholly unaware of the blazes roaring above them. The riders were smiling and laughing the way people do on a Friday night. People in the apartments around the concert hall heard screams and the rattling of machine gun fire. One reporter opened his window to film the chaos and took a bullet in the arm. Others opened their doors. They saw people running, scared, terrified. We don’t know if the people in those apartments and businesses were good Christians, like Greg Abbott, but we know that a lot of them opened their doors. We know they told strangers to come in, to take refuge. Some sat there, with the strangers from the street, in the dark, for hours. They didn’t know what was going on outside. It was possible that some of the people running down the street that night were terrorists themselves, pretending to be fleeing the very horror they caused. That’s still possible, in fact. Some of the people crouching, looking terrified in those living rooms and lobbies may have been the shooters or bombers, or their accomplices. The people on the other side of those doors had no way of knowing who they were letting in, or what kind of weaponry the strangers might have.

I like to think of our Governor there, perhaps with his family, on what felt like the safe side of the door. Greg Abbott would be faced with a choice. It’s a choice no human being would ever want. He’d look out a peephole or a crack in the door and see people coming from a very dangerous place. They’d probably look scared. They’d probably be begging for help—possibly in a language he didn’t recognize. Some might be covered in blood, or stumbling and reeking of the alcohol they were drinking before the mayhem began. And Abbott, the Christian that he is, would have to decide whether to let these people in.

No, he wouldn’t be deciding if they were going to live with him forever. There in Paris, with the sirens now blaring, he wouldn’t be deciding if he wanted the children of these strangers going to school with his kids, or if they would be buried near where his ancestors are in the ground. He’d be deciding if he wanted to risk his own safety—and possibly the safety of his family—to give these strangers a safe spot to stay.

I like to think of our good Governor there, opening his door, signaling to these strangers, however many there were, that his home was safe. That he’d protect them. I like to imagine them there, in this tense time, perhaps unsure of each other, maybe even learning something from one another. (If it turns out one of those people was just pretending to be scared and wished others harm, I hope the Governor would get his giant shot gun. And the remaining good people would bond over that.) There’s a chance that some of the people who met in those apartments that night will know each other for the rest of their lives. And I like to think of Greg Abbott doing that, making a lifelong friend out of a terrible circumstance.

I know he’s scared. We all are. The world can be terrible. We are lucky we don’t live in the parts of the world where this kind of mayhem and horror happens more often. And when people come running, fleeing the very people who were in that concert hall, we should think of all of those things before we lock the door.

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