The world of politics is often a scary, disheartening place. Leader's criticize free media, they blame a nation's problems on a group of people and take severe action against these marginalized groups. Neighbors turn against neighbors, believing that the person who was once a friend is the root cause of all their hardships. Racist jokes become the norm, and people are turned into "the other".
January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It marks the liberation of Auschwitz and the world's inability to turn a blind eye towards the horrors of Nazi Germany for any longer.
This year, it feels as if it is especially poignant.
As someone who is majoring in both communication and government, I believe I have an innate understanding as to how words play a critical role in politics. Yes, we were all taught in elementary school that a bully's words cannot hurt us but this is no longer a case of teasing on the playground. In the real world, every word holds meaning.
Rhetoric is often misused by those in power to advance their agendas and reach their goals. Most people do not understand how the Holocaust was allowed to happen. There are misconceptions that it spontaneously occurred in a short period of time.
It did not.
Adolf Hitler was a democratically elected leader of Germany. The people elected him because they felt as if they were used as scapegoats for World War I and they were in a serious depression. They turned to a man who promised them that it was not their fault but it was the fault of the Jews, Roma, homosexuals, disabled, and other marginalized groups.
They believed him.
Through years of propaganda from newspaper cartoons to Hitler Youth schools, the Nazi's slowly converted the "pure" German people to an ideology of hatred. Even if they did not completely buy into the Nazi ideology of hatred, staying silent was just a deadly. Being complacent makes you just as guilty as the perpetrators.
Sadly, the United States did not help. In 1939, a boat of Jewish refugees from Germany was turned away at the United States border. The people on board were later killed in a number of death camps, primarily Auschwitz from what my research has shown.
The Jews and the other groups who were targeted did not have to be. They were targeted because it was the easy thing to do.
Today, we stand at a similar crossroad.
Our economy isn't doing as well as some would like. We feel like the America that was once the "city on the hill" is no longer there.
But hate is not the answer.
It is not the fault of Muslims or Mexicans that our economy does not work for everyone.
This is not to say that I'm accusing President Trump of being the next Hitler. For the sake of our country, I hope he is not. But for someone who has studied the cultural patterns that lead to genocide, it can be unsettling to see them emerge in your own country.
The Nazis shut down any newspaper that did not agree with their ideology. President Trump frequently tweets about how "liberal" news channels such as CNN and MSNBC are "fake news," insinuating that they cannot be believed.
On January 27, 2017, the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, President Trump signed an executive order that bars people from entering the United States solely based on their religion.
He is also aiming to build a wall on the Southern border that could cost well over $10 billion. With that money, we could provide economic relief to many of our citizens.
Will Mexicans and Muslims become our scapegoats? I wonder if they will be given numbers to wear when the Muslim registry is created.
Just yesterday, a man at John F. Kennedy airport in New York attacked a Muslim airline worker. People are no longer safe at their jobs because of their religion.
Hate crimes have spiked significantly since the election. People are feeling emboldened to express their hatred and racism.
Sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?
While I hope and pray that the American people would not be complacent in attacks on our neighbors, coworkers, and friends because of an ideology that has permeated the very depths of our society, it is still worrying.
But we have a choice.
We can choose to be quiet or we can choose to fight against these negative ideologies before the take an even greater hold of our country.
It is best to be proactive than reactive in situations such as these.
Maybe I am wrong and delusional and projecting these feelings onto the President because I did not vote for him. But maybe, just maybe, I'm not.
Either way, I see that there are feelings that are being expressed now that were not welcome once upon a time.
I would much rather be overly sensitive and fight to make sure that this period in our country does not wind up in history books for the wrong reasons than watch people who have contributed so much to this great American experiment perish because I was indifferent.
Action does not cost you much, maybe just a few hours of your time, but inaction can cost human lives and this is a situation where I'd much rather be safe than sorry.
This is not a conspiracy theory being propagated by the left solely because they lost. We aren't speculating whether or not a man went to the moon or if Elvis is living in Aruba. These are real people with real lives we are dealing with here.
Everyone likes to proclaim the words "never again" when the Holocaust is brought up but now is the time to truly show whether or not you mean those words. You have a choice going forward. You can defend your fellow citizens against hatred or you can be complacent because you believe "that's just the way the world is."
Genocide is not a joke and any echoing of it should be squashed immediately, no matter how unintentional it may appear to be.
Right now, you get to make a conscious decision whether the life of another means more to you than your own material comfort because even if there is not an organized genocide on American soil in this century, hate crimes will continue to happen.
I urge you not to become those people you criticized in history class but instead become the people you wished they had been.