Remember first learning about the Holocaust? Whether you had a parent explain it to you, or a guest speaker at school, it was surreal. It’s rare that something can penetrate the hearts and minds of young kids, to strip away from them their immature nature and make them really think seriously. Wasn’t this how we all reacted to hearing about the Holocaust? Dead seriousness. I don’t remember anybody goofing around or making jokes in school, or myself wanting to go outside and play rather than hear about it. It transcends youth, immaturity and innocence. On a visceral level, as a young kid you realize the magnitude of it. As a result my first question, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, was why did people let this happen?
I simply could not understand how it could happen. Sure, there could be one lunatic at the top who ordered the atrocities, but where was everyone else? Not only the people who let it happen locally, within Germany and Europe, but what about the U.S.?
We learn an extremely illusory record of American history as a child: We had to drop the atomic bomb to save lives, the founding fathers were all visionaries and wonderful people, the wars in the Middle East were to protect us from terrorism. We learned about the camps the U.S. liberated in Germany and Poland, how grateful the prisoners were to see the red, white and blue. We never spoke about one of the great moral failures of our country: The U.S. turned away thousands of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust out of fear that they were Nazi spies. Sound Familiar?
We said ‘Never forget’, we said ‘Never again’. What are words if they do not prompt actions?
President Donald Trump has issued an executive order that ultimately bans Syrian refugees indefinitely and all refugees for 120 days. There is a holocaust going on in Syria. It’s not a ‘terrible situation’, it isn’t just the ‘unstable Middle East’, it is a holocaust. Bashar al-Assad is murdering people. The longer we kid ourselves into thinking it isn’t the U.S.’s problem, the more people will die. Why is it that the one time we can really and truly help thousands of people in the Middle East, we don’t stand up? We have been messing around with our deadly weapons and greedy nation-building for years, and now that we can save lives it is too much of a risk?
To those who honestly believe that we are falling into a terrorist trap, quit it. None of these countries named on Trump’s ban have been the origin of a terrorist attack since 9/11. Countries in which terrorists have come from in recent years, like Saudi Arabia, are not on Trump’s list. Coincidentally, Trump has no known business ties in any of the countries named in the ban, though—predictably—he neglected countries that he does business in. This shouldn’t be political, Trump is clearly conning us through this fear-mongering. By all means, vet these people humanely, because due diligence is always necessary—but we cannot, once again, be the country that denies the refugees of a holocaust.
In 20 years I really hope that school children will not be asking a similar question to the one we all did when we were younger: Where was the U.S. during the Syrian Holocaust?
Do we just keep the Statue of Liberty standing so as not to insult the French, or do we truly believe in it?
Will is a freshman intending to major in journalism. What are your views on the ban? Do you think it’s analogous to the circumstances of the Holocaust? Please send all comments, questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.