"He who doesn't understand history is doomed to repeat it" is a familiar statement these days. So let me give you some historical facts:
Pre-WWII, many Jews, and other groups in Germany were being abused, garnered in remote camps, starved and displaced. "Travesty" and "tragedy" doesn't even begin to describe the horrors perpetrated by Adolph Hitler and his henchmen. As my brother, red-eyed and shaking, said when we exited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., "Is there any way I can UNSEE what I've just seen?"
From 1938 to 1941, the world had an inkling of what was going on over there in Germany, but nobody - not one country - organized any specific rescue plan for the victims. In 1941, President Roosevelt instituted a policy for refugees/displaced persons to come to the U.S., but that didn't happen. In short, by 1952, 137,450 Jewish refugees had been rehomed here, over a fourteen year period. That is not quite 10,000 per year. You can read the details here, and I hope you do:
But here is one quote from the article:
"While some American activists sincerely intended to assist refugees, serious obstacles to any relaxation of US immigration quotas included public opposition to immigration during a time of economic depression, xenophobia, and antisemitic feelings in both the general public and among some key government officials."
Now, we are in the throes of another world refugee crisis. Is history repeating itself?
I PERSONALLY understand the situation we are in. I am retired, so I know the limitations and problems of surviving with limited resources (Social Security), limited and expensive healthcare (Medicare), fuel costs (including not just gas for the car, but gas and electricity for my home, which still has 5 years left on the mortgage), food costs, and medication costs. I know I'm better off than the vast majority of retired people here, though, because I have almost $14,000 in my 401k, and over $2000 in my savings account. Most have no savings or retirement plan at all.
I'm sharing those personal details so you know I'm not sitting up in Mt Brook or somewhere, preaching from an elite perspective. I'm not homeless, either. I'm in between those extremes, like most everybody else in America.
So, here we are, still in economic depression, still sporting xenophobia (fear of people from other countries, particularly those from Syria), and now with antimuslim feelings "in both the general public and among some key government officials."
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States rounded up everyone of Japanese origin and herded them to encampments. Why? Because we were afraid the American Japanese would turn on us and begin eliminating our other citizenry. Can you say, "kneejerk reaction"?
We haven't started displacing our Muslim citizens into camps yet, thank God (or Allah), but almost everyone over the age of 3 is terrified of them.
Many governors, including Alabama's, have said, "Syrian refugees are not allowed in my state," as if there is a Great Wall around the states with armed guards checking drivers licenses or something when people cross the State line. Last week, when I went to Tennessee, there was no wall, but there WAS a sign that said, "Welcome to Tennessee". When I came home, there still was no wall, no armed guards, no "Alabama-Resident-Checkin". There was a HUGE sign that said, "Welcome to Alabama the Beautiful". Beautiful for ME, maybe. But beautiful for everyone coming into Alabama, especially if they're not a bonafide resident? I'm not so sure.
I'm as afraid of terrorists as the next citizen, but I'm equally wary/afraid of any people wandering around parking lots, unfamiliar cars parked on my dead-end street, and knocks on my door when I'm not expecting visitors. I glance in my back seat before I get in my car, I get my key out of my purse before I leave the building, and I try not to park next to vans without windows. I'm not paranoid. I'm just aware.
I admit I'm not afraid of the Muslim attendants at the Shell station or the Marathon station in my neighborhood. I'm not afraid of the Muslim customers at our Brown Bag mission (incidentally, it wasn't Muslim customers that shot the lady at Four Winds. It was white male customers, who had also attended services at the church). I'm not afraid of the Muslims that live behind me, whose children come out to pet Major Big Dog when I walk him around the block. I wasn't afraid of the Muslims who were eating dinner at Ming's Cuisine last month. (Didn't know they liked Chinese food. I guess some of them do.) I'm not afraid of the Muslims shopping at Winn Dixie. And I'm not afraid of the Muslims walking around the Galleria. Do you think I should be? Then let me ask you this:
How can you identify a Muslim if she/he isn't wearing the traditional/cultural headwear? How can you identify Syrians from those from any other Middle Eastern country? If I'm afraid of Muslims, should I also be afraid of Baptists? What about the Westboro Baptists? How do I differentiate between them and the Vestavia Baptists? What about Japanese? They might be carrying a WWII grudge because of their grandparents. Then there are the Jews we didn't let take refuge here 70 years ago. Oh my goodness! How do I identify THEM, if their name doesn't end with -stein?
And, since I'm Caucasian, maybe I should be afraid of ANYONE with dark skin, be they of Middle Eastern, African, Israeli, Pakistani or South American descent.
In fact, maybe I should stay home, lock my doors, and watch out for the Mexicans across the street.