War, suffering, etc.
War, suffering, etc. Nebojsa Markovic / Shutterstock.com

The Paris attacks, like everything that hurts beyond measure, is a Rorschach test of ideology: Which of your assumptions would you like it to confirm, and whose would you like it to refute?

And if you are a particularly thoughtful person, which of your assumptions will it change?

If you are congressional Republicans Devin Nunes (chair of the House Intelligence Committee) and Chuck Grassley (chair of the Judiciary Committee), it confirms that the United States should halt the Obama administration's efforts to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in this country. Republican governors of at least seven states have said they'll block Syrian resettlement efforts in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Texas, and Arkansas.

And the logic of their argument is tempting: If one of the terrorists slipped into France with the refugees, how could we stop them in the United States?

In September, the administration began planning to accept 10,000 refugees in 2016—a massive increase from this year, when the country has taken in fewer than 2,000. A key component of the plan is extensive background checks—a process that can take up to two years and involves various checks by the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.

At the time, Republican Representative Peter King (New York) compared the refugees to the Boston Marathon bomber. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (Illinois) asked the administration to increase the number accepted to 65,000.

But the question of resettlement is far more fraught—and of practical concern—in Europe. France's National Front party wants to close mosques. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is standing by her plan to resettle 800,000 refugees. Poland's incoming European affairs minister, Konrad Szymanski, criticized resettlement.

Just to give you a sense of scale, the UN estimates that 3 million people have fled Syria, with 6.5 million more displaced but still trapped in the country. So where are these millions of people supposed to go? Stay in camps? Go back to Syria, where they have no home anymore?

Obama, bless him, appealed to our better natures: "When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who's fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that's shameful," the president said.

He went on: "Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both."

So! Which side of the Rorschach blot looks most familiar to you? Ignoring 9.5 million suffering people and making them someone else's problem? Offering to help one-tenth of a percent of them? Or doing something more?