We Study History To Learn From It, Not Repeat It

Social media has become a way for me to stave off the solitude that results from working remotely out of my home office. It's a water-cooler, break-room, leaving-for-a-quick-lunch all in one. It's also a way for me to stay in touch with family and friends as our lives evolve and our children grow. I'm grateful that technology has advanced to a degree such a thing is possible. However.

It's also become a way for folks to voice their opinions on what are generally thought of as very personal decisions regarding very public issues. It's a platform for some to speak openly behind the curtain of safety and anonymity a computer screen offers. There are those who express opinions through memes and status updates in ways they wouldn't dream of doing if standing face-to-face with people (unless they were 100% certain those people agreed with them...or relished the possibility of debate).

It is my view that I have no jurisdiction over anyone's opinion. Our opinions are one of the only things we really own. Listening to another’s opinion without rebuttal does not necessarily mean I agree with them; it simply means I believe in their freedom to voice that opinion. But for the most part--especially publicly--I guard my own opinions like prisoners because to speak them aloud is to potentially invite ridicule as easily as agreement and risks upsetting those I have no wish to upset. So, I keep to myself out of both respect and self-preservation.

However, I find that I can no longer be silent about one particular, publicly opined topic.

I just finished a book called "Once We Were Brothers," by Ronald H. Balson, a story that focused on WWII and a Jewish man from Poland. There were passages in that book that twisted my heart not only because such atrocities once happened...but also because I could see the shadows of them repeating today. In our headlines, in our tweets, in the Facebook statuses of people I love and respect and admire.

Setting aside country and religion for just a moment, I cannot fathom how we as intelligent human beings can condemn such a horrific actuality as the Holocaust in one breath (which I believe any sane person does) and in the next consider--even for just a moment--the possibility of a Muslim database, as I have seen in recent headlines. Registering an entire populace under the guise of protecting against terrorists is, in my opinion, tantamount to evil.

“Nazi persecution didn’t limit itself to race. Religion, national origin, alternative lifestyles, persons with disabilities--all were targets.” (Once We Were Brothers)

“Find a reason to turn your nose up at a culture, to denigrate a people because they’re different, and it’s not such a giant leap from ethnic subjugation to ethnic slaughter.” (Once We Were Brothers)

“There are many reasons to study and teach about the Holocaust, and maybe the most important reason is to prevent re-occurrences. We are sentries [...]. We stand on the wall, on guard against any hint that the minions of genocide are reassembling.” (Once We Were Brothers)

I can hear the arguments of those I love and respect in my head. Yes, I want to protect my home and family. Yes, I want to end terrorism. Yes, I want light to win and evil destroyed. But not by becoming evil myself. Not by damning people to judgement and ridicule and death simply because of where they were born. Simply because of their religion.

What happened to us? I see memes on Facebook declaring individuals wanting to bar our borders against refugees, claiming “refugee roulette” - that there is at least one ‘poisonous’ person in every handful of refugees. I would argue that is true of any situation anywhere in the world.

You attend a soccer game with 20,000 fans, odds are you’re going to have at least one if not many people in attendance who would shoot you for your wallet. You drive on a busy highway, you’re most likely on the road with at minimum five people who could kill you simply because they are compromised in some way. You attend a movie at a busy theater and there’s no guarantee a mentally unstable person with too-easy access to automatic weapons won’t change your world forever. You send your children to school every day with a prayer on your lips that the ‘stranger drills’ they have now added into the tornado and fire drill rotation saves their lives.

This is our reality; we created it, we live in it, we make the best of it. But if we are living in fear of the possibility that one Muslim person might be a terrorist, why are we not also applying the same “protection” against anyone who has ever purchased a gun? Or anyone who has a driver’s license? Or for that matter, anyone who outwardly declares a religious affiliation of any kind? Atrocities against humanity are not limited to Muslims; that religion is simply the latest in history to have extremists. I mean, circling back to the book that triggered my voice, Hitler was Catholic.

What happened to us? What happened to our memories of our ancestors who fled as refugees from persecution to live as they declared right and just and free? What happened to the people who inspired the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? 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.

Yes, I understand that we have homeless--soldiers and civilians--on our streets that we haven’t found the perfect solution to care for. Yes, I understand that there is debt and infrastructure imbalance that weighs on us a country. Yes, I understand that we’ve been damaged and wounded by terror and corruption. I feel all of that. But I cannot see how any of that justifies the idea that we have a right to categorize an entire people based on race or religion, or that we have the right to deny sanctuary to those whose homes and country have been destroyed by war.

My family is everything to me. I love my husband and daughter with every cell in my body. And I will protect them. But not through fear. If you came to me today and asked me to take in a Syrian family who has somehow managed to survive war and terror long enough to make it to our country, I would set more places at the table and break out the air mattresses. If a Muslim family moved next door, I would welcome them to the neighborhood by bringing them a gift card to a nearby restaurant (because, let’s face it, that’s more welcoming than my cooking).

I would not do this out of naivete, but out of love for my fellow man. I would do it because the God I believe in is not a God who promotes fear and suspicion, but love and tolerance and acceptance. Because I don’t believe God is Christian or Catholic or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim, but bigger than any of our fragile human classifications. Because his son was once a refugee. Because his son accepted and associated with people from all walks of life, regardless of the possible “risk” involved. And if that’s not how you see God, then I’m afraid we don’t follow the same one.

I understand and accept that I do not have The Solution for so many of the terrible things humanity faces today--I simply have my opinion. I don’t know the Right Answer for keeping guns out of the hands of people who would seek to do others harm. I don’t know the Right Answer for how to keep the load-balance of our country’s infrastructure and finances at a sustainable level. I don’t know the Right Answer for stopping ISIS or the next terrorist group. I don’t know the Right Answer for any of it.

I just know that as a member of the human race, I cannot see how denying suffering people even a modicum of peace and classifying people based on their religion can even be considered. It’s not something I will post in a meme or fill my Facebook statuses with; doing so seems to only rile up those who sit in opposition to my opinions. And I won’t argue with you that your opinion is wrong or mine is right. That doesn’t solve anything.

I will continue to donate, support, and vote my conscience. And I will show my daughter that for every person living in fear, there are those who move in love. That the loudest voice isn’t always speaking the best words. And that we study history to learn from it, not to repeat it.