This week’s Flashback Friday: Dear America
You’ve probably seen it on social media as it’s making the rounds, but in the early days of World War II, we turned away Jewish refugees seeking asylum in the United States. They were fleeing Hitler and for good reason. In fact, one of those refugee visas we denied was that of Anne Frank.Flashback Friday: Dear America
I remember reading The Diary of a Young Girl in middle school. I remember being baffled at the idea that anyone would want to commit genocide. Anne was a girl like me. She was trying to make peace with the world around her and her changing body, just like me.
I had friends who were Jewish, but in 6th grade, I didn’t really comprehend what that meant. My father told me they didn’t believe in Jesus, but they were his chosen people. My brain heard these words, but wrote it off as religious hand-wavy stuff. When I looked at my Jewish friends, they were people. There was nothing outwardly different that I could decipher and certainly nothing so different as to call for their end.
Hitler made very little sense to me, mainly because I’m a pacifist. Yet I’m intelligent enough to understand now—as an adult—why people go to war. If someone walked into my home and threatened the life of my husband or myself, I wouldn’t hesitate to protect what is mine. But never in a million years would I, or could I believe it necessary to judge an entire people based on their skin color, religion, nationality, sexuality, or anything else. That’s an evil I can’t wrap my head around.
I don’t like discussing politics on my website. I tend to keep that sort of thing for in person debate or Facebook, yet something has transpired in the past week that has me afraid in ways I’ve never experienced before in my 37 years on Earth.
A presidential candidate—one who is in the lead no less—has stated that he would or could require all Muslims to be identified in a registry and carry a form of identification that would tell others they are Muslim.
This is straight out of Hitler’s movement to identify followers of Judaism.
That anyone in this country could even think of doing such a thing—much less a leading presidential candidate—is terrifying. When terrorists attack, it’s less about the actual event and more about the days that follow, days where we react out of fear and well…terror rather than thinking through the event rationally. It’s difficult—I mean, people died. When backed into a corner, we tend to react. The media spreads misinformation, especially on social media, and we drink it up.
The Paris bombers were not refugees. The United States has brought in over 75,000 refugees since 9/11 and yet, not one of them has been found to be a terrorist. Refugees are put through rigorous screenings and other methods to ensure (as best we can, anyway) that they are good people who will work hard as U.S. Citizens.
No matter how much we’re afraid, to turn our backs on those in need is un-American by definition.
When I was an English teacher, we read The New Colossus, a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus. The poem is mounted at the Statue of Liberty and states:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The United States was created based on freedom, which includes the freedom to believe whatever it is you wish, which includes the beliefs of Islam.
As a feminist and one seeking equality for ALL people, I don’t agree with many of the tenants of Islam (or Christianity for that matter), but I stand up for others’ rights to follow those religions if they so choose. After all, it’s a founding principal of our country.
In the wake of recent tragedies—Paris, Baghdad, Beirut, or otherwise—many Americans and presidential candidates carry thoughts that take us down dangerous roads. Roads I am not willing to tread. No American should be willing to walk a road of hate.
While I hate the thought that some of my readers might cease reading my works because of my opinions, I can’t remain silent on something this serious. To remain so could mean the death of many innocent and misunderstood people. And so I speak my mind, as I must, in hopes of helping people to think rather than react.
To love, rather than to hate.
On dark days like these, I am reminded of the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller.
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.
I will speak out until my throat is raw from screaming. I will speak out until we are free, because if they come for the Muslims, I guarantee it won’t stop there. Our country, settled upon basic freedoms, will become everything we hate. Everything we fear.
Remember this as we contemplate repeating history.
(Image of Anne Frank is used from the Public Domain.)
Click here to read other Flashback Friday posts including those by bestselling authors Jean Walker, G.G. Silverman, G. S. Jennsen, and Django Wexler.