Matt Epstein ’19
On Sept. 17, three separate attacks were carried out on U.S. soil, leaving one person dead and nearly 50 injured. In Minnesota, Dahir Adan, a 22-year-old Somali-American stabbed 11 people at a mall. In New York and New Jersey, two homemade bombs exploded and a third pressure cooker bomb was found undetonated. While the investigation is ongoing, Afghan-American Ahmad Rahami was captured after a shootout, and has been charged in the case of all three bombs.
Our nation’s attention should be on those affected.However, the attacks also bring terrorism and national security to the forefront of the ongoing presidential campaigns. With just nine weeks left until ballots are cast, the recent attacks could have large implications for who becomes our next President.
In the post-9/11 era, Americans are predictably wary of terrorism. Naturally, both major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, were quick to respond to last weekend’s attacks. At a campaign rally, Trump used the attacks as a talking point, in a departure from his usual stump speech, telling the audience “just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on.” Trump, so it seemed, did know what was going on, as he announced that a bomb had exploded hours before any official confirmation that it was in fact a bomb. He drew criticism for speaking on this topic while potentially uninformed. Later in the night, Clinton also talked to reporters about the explosions, saying that she had been in contact with New York City officials.
In no uncertain terms, immigration has been at the forefront of the Presidential campaign. Trump and Clinton, however, have far different approaches to the issue. Trump preaches the value of a large border wall, mass deportations, and a temporary hold on immigration from traditionally Muslim countries. Clinton suggests a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country and urges the U.S. to serve as a safe haven for those displaced in the Syrian refugee crisis.
Since ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Minnesota stabbings and the accused bomber in New York and New Jersey had been reportedly “radicalized,” it is easy to see how recent events could incite fear in voters, swinging them towards polices of isolationism. When it comes time to vote, Americans must remember that we are a nation of immigrants, one that has historically come to the rescue of those in need. Perhaps this is already showing, as Clinton leads polls when it comes to choosing which candidate Americans trust on matters of terrorism and foreign policy.
In this Nov., the American people will elect our next president. The stabbings in Minnesota and bombings in New York and New Jersey have brought terrorism to the center of the campaign. In many ways, Americans will have to make the choice between succumbing to fear, or embracing pragmatism in the coming weeks. Terrorism fundamentally aims to scare people into abandoning their normal way of life. If our country gives into fear, last week’s attacks would be a success in the eyes of the perpetrators.
Matt Epstein ’19