New York Times
By Jason Horowitz
December 12, 2015
The handsome Washington townhouse where Wayne Hickory practices orthodontics is a landmark of terrorism in America.
In 1919, an anarchist exploded a bomb at what was then the home of the attorney general. The failed assassination set off a wave of violent raids on radicals, Communists and leftists, and the deportation without due process of hundreds of innocent European immigrants — a high point of hysteria in an era known as the first Red Scare.
“Maybe there is something to learn from history,” Dr. Hickory said in a sitting room that now contains advertising for invisible braces. But asked about Donald J. Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the United States, Dr. Hickory said that, as implausible as it was, the proposal had prompted a necessary discussion about whether travelers from countries fraught with Islamic extremism should receive increased scrutiny. “Perhaps,” he said, “the line needs to be drawn a little bit more severely.”
An existential fear of foreign infiltration, unfamiliar minorities and terrorist attacks is not a new feeling in America. Neither is the nativist, if at times innovative, language that Mr. Trump has mastered on his way to leading the Republican presidential primary race.
But interviews this week with dozens of American voters, even those who do not support Mr. Trump and reject his ban as an indecent proposal, make clear that their anxiety is on the rise in a climate more fearful than at any time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. From the Capitol to the campaign trail, from Mr. Trump’s childhood neighborhood to the suburbs near the Islamic State-inspired killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., voters acknowledged, almost despite themselves, the gnawing sense of insecurity that has fueled Mr. Trump’s vision and persistent appeal.
People are seeing things, and saying things.
Carol Shapiro, 73, a vehement critic of Mr. Trump from Rockaway, N.J., recalled with some embarrassment her surveillance of an apparently Middle Eastern man wearing a “Taliban hat” and photographing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree on the day of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
“The tree wasn’t lighted,” she said, making her wonder why the man would be taking pictures. “And then he put his hands in his pockets and walked off very fast, and it made me uncomfortable.”
“Terrorists can do so many things to hide to get into this country,” said Leonidez Galan, 66, who was actually drawn closer to Mr. Trump and away from his previous choice, Jeb Bush, when Mr. Trump called to ban Muslim immigrants from the United States. Expressing fear of the women in hijabs who walked the neighborhood’s curved streets, he said of Muslims, “They come in and kill people.”
Some in the neighborhood who voted for President Obama and planned to support Hillary Clinton nevertheless said they admired Mr. Trump’s machismo and shared his concern that, as Andrew Baker, 53, put it, “Muslims are more dangerous.”
Echoes of that notion reverberated on the campaign trail and at the events of candidates who condemned Mr. Trump’s harsh language. Often, it seemed that older voters were bothered most by the attack in San Bernardino and more sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s proposals.
At an event for Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday in Iowa City, Arleigh Clemens, 78, a retired construction worker from North Liberty, Iowa, used a mathematical analogy. “Let’s say you have a jar with 10,000 M&Ms, and only 10 of them are poisoned,” he said. “Would you eat them?”
At an event in New Hampshire, supporters of Mr. Bush, who has excoriated Mr. Trump’s proposed ban despite his own call for a religious test for refugees from Syria, had views more sympathetic to Mr. Trump.
“I just feel we have enough illegal people in our country, and there’s no jobs for them,” said Beverly Lee, 78, of Brookline, N.H. She said she thought the ban was a “good idea.”
Beverly Swanburg, 73, from Milford, N.H., agreed.
“We should not let any more in, any more immigrants from Mexico or Muslim,” she said, adding that Mr. Trump’s proposal was “on the right road” because of the difficulty in discerning which Muslims were peaceful and which were not, like the couple in San Bernardino. They “went to the shooting range the day before,” she said. “Somebody there should have looked at them as Muslims at a shooting range and paid a little more attention.”
In several polls this week, a majority of American voters said they disapproved of Mr. Trump’s plan, even as support for his candidacy continued to rise. But in a New York Times/CBS News poll, 59 percent of Americans also said they were “very concerned” about the threat of terrorism from people entering the United States, and 26 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.”
Furtan Yusfa, a mother of two and a Muslim, has been among those experiencing the effects of those fears. “I sometimes feel it, like I’m different from others,” said Ms. Yusfa, 24, who was wearing a hijab, or head scarf, in a mall in Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis. “Sometimes, they’re scared of me.”
A century ago, it would have been Mr. Trump’s German immigrant grandparents who felt the brunt of such profiling. Fears of sabotage during World War I raised suspicion, and Americans started saying “liberty cabbage” instead of sauerkraut.
“It was that they could be spies,” said Alexander Keyssar, a history professor at Harvard. “They could be infiltrating.”
Those lingering concerns flared again in World War II, when Mr. Trump’s father began telling people he was of Swedish heritage. Japanese-Americans had no such recourse, and many ended up in internment camps.
Historians said Mr. Trump was a modern version of the public figures who took advantage of immigrant-based, and more economic-based, fears. Those worries have coursed through American history at least since the Know-Nothing Party of the 19th century demonized waves of Roman Catholic immigrants as operatives of a foreign pope.
But even among some who acknowledged Mr. Trump’s appeal, there was a conscious effort not to give in to it.
Sipping a caramel coffee at the Edina mall, Brian Wagenaar, a 21-year-old college student, called Mr. Trump’s proposal “ridiculous” but said xenophobic sentiments were natural. “It doesn’t feel great. We’ve been conditioned to know that that’s wrong,” he said. “We all have to safeguard against an inner Trump.”
Darlene Linares, 19, a supporter of the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in San Bernardino, the site of last week’s massacre, was resigned to the inevitability of such attacks and appalled by Mr. Trump, saying she found his remarks about Mexicans and Muslims disqualifying.
That said, Ms. Linares added that her mother, who immigrated from El Salvador in 1995, was on board with Mr. Trump. “My mom actually agrees,” she said. “She thinks that Muslims are all the same."
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