Then They Came For Me
So Donald Trump wants to enact a (temporary) ban on Muslims entering the United States. Apparently his mechanism for doing so would be to have U.S. Customs agents ask all people entering the country if they are Muslims, and turn away those that answer “Yes”. Does anyone really think that this would keep us safe? To believe that, you would have to believe that people who have no qualms about murdering scores of innocents in cold blood would balk at telling a fib about their religion, which is, of course, ridiculous. (As an aside, let’s keep in mind the fact that religion is something people choose and frequently change. “Yeah, I was a Muslim when I left Saudi Arabia, but now I’m not, although there’s a reasonable chance that once I walk out of the airport I’ll change my mind once more and become a Muslim again”). So who would the Trump plan keep out? Every-day, law-abiding, truth-telling Muslims. The liars, of course, would have no trouble getting in. But for Trump and his followers, this ridiculous plan would further their goal of keeping as many brown-skinned folks out of the country as possible, the actual intent of the people who want to come here be damned.
Before we go any further with this, a little background on yours truly. I was raised in the Jewish religion (bar mitzvah and everything), but as an adult I have come to disbelieve in the supernatural, and so I don’t really consider myself to be a member of any religion. But I do consider myself to be ethnically/culturally Jewish, which to me is something else altogether. And it is as an ethnic/cultural Jew that I say this: Any Jew (religious or otherwise) who supports Trump and his neo-fascist policies is a dangerous ignoramus who knows nothing about history. The only long-term hope for Jews to live peacefully here in the United States or anywhere else in the world (with the exception of Israel) are societies that are dedicated to the principles of tolerance, pluralism, diversity, and fairness and freedom for all. (Israel has its own reasons to adhere to these principles as well, but that’s another story, for another time). Once we say that it’s okay to treat any group, Muslim or otherwise, as pariahs outside of society, worthy only of discrimination and ostracism, it will be okay to do that to any other group as well. And once that principle has been established, history tells us that the haters will eventually get around to the Jews. They always have. That’s history, and those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Martin Luther King warned us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. That concept applies to this situation as well. Institutional hate and discrimination against any minority group legitimizes hate and discrimination against any other minority group. It is therefore essential to Jewish self-preservation in the United States that we always speak out against bigotry. Even if you’re so hard-hearted that you don’t care what happens to innocent Muslims, speak out against bigotry as a general principle. As Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement goes:
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.
As Jews, we must not wait until they come for us again to speak out against intolerance and bigotry against any group. The time to speak out is now, for EVERYONE!