During the 11/13 Paris attacks, the city implemented a curfew for the first time since the Second World War. Public transportation was shut down, and police urged all civilians to remain indoors. Tens of thousands of people were stuck on the streets without a place to go, and without a way to get home. Local Parisians began posting their addresses on twitter along with the #porteouverte hashtag, which means "open doors."
The city was a war zone. Hundreds were dead in the streets, with more attacks possible at any moment. Was there a chance terrorists could use this hospitality against them? Of course. Yet thousands on twitter opened their doors to complete strangers anyways, because compassion is more powerful than fear. The terrorists wanted them to be afraid, but the French would not allow that to stop their humanity.
It's impossible to ensure 100% safety. There will always be some degree of danger regardless of what we do, no matter how careful we are. We cannot allow fear of danger to destroy what makes us human: our compassion for one another.
In 1939, the SS St. Louis arrived on the coast of America full of Jewish refugees fleeing Germany. They were denied. FDR sent the coast guard to stop them, firing warning shots across their bow to keep them from running ashore.
The ship returned to Europe, unloading the refugees in Belgium and France. Most were later sent to concentration camps. Because America was afraid.
The Syrian refugees aren't our enemies. They're fleeing ISIS. Is it possible terrorists could sneak in among the refugees? Sure. Again, it's impossible to stay 100% safe. Should we turn away thousands of refugees, women and children, the vast majority of whom are undoubtedly innocent, simply because a few terrorists might get through? Because we're afraid?
Fear destroys our humanity. It changes who we are. Fear is what caused the Salem Witch Trials. It's what caused us to round up all Japanese Americans and throw them in internment camps. It's what caused McCarthy to hold up a piece of paper and declare there are 205 communists in the US Government. It's what causes us to arrest a child for bringing in an electronic breadboard clock, a common circuitry project.
The terrorists want to change us. They want to make us so afraid that we change everything about our country, everything that makes us great. They want us to enact laws to restrict our own freedoms and allow widespread government surveillance. We made these mistakes after 9/11 because we were afraid.
"I lift my lamp beside the golden door." America has always been a beacon of hope for the world. This is part of what has made our country wonderful throughout history. I would rather accept a small hypothetical risk and remain this beacon than see the country change itself because of fear.
Don't let them change us. Don't be afraid.