To the Editor:
At our annual town meeting, a majority of participants voted to declare Bar Harbor a sanctuary city. During comments prior to the vote, a community member spoke in opposition, citing as authority his past experience in governmental intelligence activities and his concerns for terrorist attacks in sanctuary locales.
I cannot speak to the pertinence of the gentleman’s experience. But I question the accuracy of his purported evidence and especially the assertion of a causal link in the coincidence of attacks in sanctuary locales. Most especially, I deplore the introduction of scare tactics to our civic debate.
Worldwide, terrorist attacks take place across the map – from failed states to police states, in democracies and theocracies.
In the United States, attacks have been perpetrated in declared sanctuary locales as well as in locales which have outlawed the sanctuary designation. The motives of perpetrators are as diverse and complex as their homicidal ideological beliefs and often suicidal personal histories.
Over time, designations of “sanctuary” locale and “terrorist” attack are socially, politically and legally complicated. The murderous attacks in Oklahoma City, New York City and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., demonstrate the challenges to cataloging these crimes.
We are not close to being able to categorize these acts and far from being able to certify causes with any certainty. Any claim that adopting the sanctuary designation has predictive value in identifying future vulnerability to terrorist attack is without empirical or theoretical basis. It is simply, and simplistically, ideological. In fact, it is a common theme of far right wing and alt-right extremist media outlets.
Terrorism doubly victimizes the dead by exploiting them to frighten the living into betraying their allegiances. In declaring ourselves a sanctuary, Bar Harbor has embraced the ethical tradition informing the American Constitution.
Democracy and sanctuary open a space for consideration of right action based on reason rather than emotion. In the current climate, fear mongering seeks to close minds as well as doors.