I wish we didn’t have to take it seriously. I wish it didn’t all sound so familiar. I wish it really was just a joke, a satire, a sideshow act. I wish it didn’t make me very, very scared. Again.
A presidential candidate (and yes, Donald Trump is a real one, despite how it seems) is calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the US. Seriously. A. Ban. On. An. Entire. Religion. I wish that the conversation about banning all people of a given religion (and no—it doesn’t matter which one) stopped immediately after it started. But still, it goes on. Still, Muslim women and men are being harassed on the bus, on the street, in stores, and libraries. Muslim children are being beaten, arrested for science fair projects, taunted, and bullied. Right here. Right now.
And I’m overhearing my friends and neighbors talk about keeping suitcases packed, assets liquid, options open. Headcoverings off. Affiliations and alliances secret. Cultures and faiths hidden.
Cultures and faiths eradicated.
Familiar. Too familiar.
We said never again. Let’s ask ourselves (again): Did we mean it?
We have a choice right now, each and every one of us. We can choose to do nothing, and say nothing, tacitly supporting a deeply dangerous trend. A trend whose direction we know all too well. We can find reasons. We can hide behind justifications. We can ignore it because (for now) it doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t affect me. Or we can stand up and stand for and stand with our friends and neighbors, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, whoever, whatever, for religious freedom and basic human dignity. We can sit next to Muslim women on the bus and make sure they are not harassed. We can point out hate speech and call it out for what it is. We can—and we should—educate ourselves, ask questions, look for answers. And pass them on.
We can do all this because it is the right thing to do, and the kind thing to do, the brave thing to do and yes, the Jewish thing to do. Yes it is. But if that isn’t enough—if the stories of middle school girls getting their hijabs ripped off while being called names (including ISIS) and repeatedly punched isn’t enough (it should be enough)—then do it because it’s the safe thing to do.
Because racism and discrimination and religious intolerance doesn’t stop at just one target. Because our children are watching, and if we teach them that it is OK to attack a group of people indiscriminately, then that’s what they will learn. And that’s what they may do. And that’s what they may teach their children in turn.
Because we can’t make our world safer by making it more dangerous. We can’t.
And because (As Martin Neimöller taught us):
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Let’s speak for others. While we still can. Because we should. Because we can.