This post I wrote a year ago and got more comments and views than any other post I have written. I thought then that the world was at an all-time low. I was wrong. With last week’s events, I think this needs to be said again:
”How could they?” I have been wondering while listening to lots of talks on the Holocaust. I have read books. I have seen movies. I have cried. I have wished that what I learned wasn’t true. People cannot be this evil. Had Hitler come on to the stage today, we would not have accepted his horrifying values and actions. We have a common understanding of what is right and what is wrong, don’t we? One doesn’t let innocent people die just because they belong to a certain ethnicity or faith. We just don’t.
I have been naive. I have thought that the world is so much better today than it was then. We are good people. We understand more about justice now than then. We are living in the most civilized time of history. Little by little, however, I realize that the world is not so much different now than it was then. The Holocaust was a result of a widespread hate towards the Jews. More and more often the Jews were considered a problem in society, a problem that needed to be taken care of should society survive. Hitler succeeded in segregating the Jews from the rest of society in his Germany.
This sounds frightfully familiar. As a simple experiment I exchange the world Jew with Muslim, immigrant or asylum seeker. I exchange Germany with any European nation, or with the USA. I swap Hitler with the words Our government, politicians, or, President. Suddenly I have sentences taken directly from the debates in society today: Muslims/ immigrants/asylum seekers are more and more often seen as a problem in society, a problem that must be fixed if society is to survive. In Norway/USA (or insert your own country) the aim is to segregate the Muslims/ immigrants/asylum seekers from the rest of society.
The massacres of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 was the result of an increased hatred towards the minority group. The biggest ethnic group in the country, the Hutus, blamed the nation’s growing social problems, the financial challenges and the political pressure on the Tutsis. The long-lasting hatred and distrust lead to the biggest genocide of our time. Again I get associations to current situations around the world. I am reminded of leaders and presidents who blame the Muslims/ immigrants/asylum seekers for growing social problems as well as the financial challenges we will soon be faced with.
One didn’t suddenly one day wake up and hate Jews. Nobody was born with an inherent hatred for Tutsis. Racism towards people from different ethnic groups, cultures, religions and nations is a process. The same way we raise our kids by setting an example, by our expressed words and opinions, by our actions and admonitions, our society is raised by our leaders that continuously repeat the same thoughts and sentiments. We are influenced by actions and words that are uttered publicly.
It doesn’t happen overnight that we decide it is OK to blame our problems and challenges on a people group we hardly know. This happens over time. It happens when people of influence day after day are allowed to freely speak of the danger of having these people come into our countries, and are serious when they say that they people should be sent back to where they came from. Crossing mountains and oceans, defying hunger, cold and constant humiliation is not enough to convince the democratically elected that their trauma is real.
I must say I am concerned. Statements that before were taboo because they were considered racist, are now OK to say in public. In the US, the President is getting away with saying things about refugees and Muslims that are so outrageous that many, me included, find it shockingly close to fascist ideology.
There is hope, however. We are many who have decided to disagree with the attitude of ignorance and hate. If we are many enough, we can tear down the walls. I am ready to roll up my sleeves, lose my reputation and fight for what is right and honorable.
This blog was originally written in Norwegian and read by thousands. Last I checked it had been shared 7,100 times. Since it got so much attention, I decided to translate it and share it here.