Saturday, January 9, 2016

Dear United States of America

Dear United States of America,

Congratulations! You are just a few short steps away from becoming Nazi Germany. Hitler didn't start with the camps. The Nazis started with propaganda, division, an 'us vs them' campaign, laws and restrictions against one single race of people followed by suspicion and finger pointing by those in power, discrimination, assaults, rallies with a mob mentality... Then came the camps. America, you are skating on very thin ice and you're not fooling anyone. The world has indeed seen this before.

I support the Muslim woman in the video linked below with every ounce of my Jewish 'been there' soul and history. Every American, every human being, and certainly everyone who has the balls to refer to themselves as a 'Christian' has a moral imperative to stand up against this inexcusable behavior and rhetoric. It is a national embarrassment when scores of Americans cheer on discrimination against one group of people. It is a national embarrassment when the leaders of the NRA and GOP lead and maintain their power through fear. It is a national embarrassment when Donald Trump, the undisputed leader of the Republican candidates to become President of the United States, incites large crowds of people foaming at the mouth to follow a policy of hatred and bigotry. Anyone who is not speaking out about this is no better than those who are out there supporting it publicly. You should be ashamed of yourselves; All of you. I know I am and I know the world is as well.

I am not as worried about Donald Trump as I am about you, the millions of American citizens who support this hateful rhetoric against fellow Americans that might look or act a little different than you and your family. You don't have to listen to the woman being interviewed. Just watch how she is treated as she is escorted out of the rally. Look at the guy blocking her way up the stairs. That is not an isolated incident. That behavior (and much worse) has become the norm among the right-wing in America. Go ahead, feel free to leave a comment about how inclusive and welcoming the NRA and GOP are. Or better yet, how racist or elitist 'liberals' are. But truth is truth. Actions speak louder than any words. Conservatives unfiltered are angry, fearful, white, and don't like anyone who doesn't look like them or believe what they do.

While at Harvard (you know, I am an 'elitist' after all, which is the conservative term/insult for having an education or intellect) I was extremely fortunate to take classes from some amazing human beings. One such human was a 30 year veteran of the CIA before he started to teach at Harvard. While he taught a few fascinating classes, my favorite was 'The Madness of Crowds'. Throughout recorded history, there is a pattern that repeats itself endlessly. When you get large groups of human beings together in crowds, the worst evils inside them come out. And they are celebrated. Ignorance. Hatred. Racism. Bigotry. Mass murder. Basically, nothing positive. There is no room in these crowds for logic, reason, compassion, or facts. Only rage.

Someone asked me today why I describe myself as a 'social justice warrior' and what that means. I had never written it out before, nor had I been asked about it. It stems from being born in New York City, the greatest city in the world. A place where the divisions are mostly two-fold: They are what we call a 'stand up guy' or good person vs what we call 'shady/sketchy' or basically a bad person. So that's it on the streets I grew up on... Good vs Bad. Not white, black, jewish, christian, catholic, muslim, atheist, chinese, korean, japanese, arabic, nepalese, etc. We were all New Yorkers. And we were all either Good or Bad.

From there, it moves on to it's obvious adult iteration: owning the term liberal and all it stands for. Liberal ideals are the ones the nation was founded on. Being liberal is the ability to have empathy for those who do not share your views, your privilege, or your circumstances. Being liberal means not automatically applying your personal beliefs to other's lives. Being liberal is the belief that all of us really are equal on this planet. Being liberal means that we have a moral responsibility to help each other up, not cut each other down. And being a 'social justice warrior' means standing up for and giving a voice to those who don't have one. They deserve a seat at the table as much as anyone else here. We are all on the same team. And, yes, we are all refugees.

Conservatives claim to want 'small government' and claim to fear 'Sha'ria law' taking over in America. However, the truth played out in their actions is very different. They want a gigantic government that supports their xenophobic, anti-knowledge, anti-everyone-not-white-and-christian agenda. Yes, I often hear conservatives refer to the 'liberal agenda' and they are right there is one, as written out above, or by the founding fathers. And it is pretty noble. However, the great irony the people who foolishly vote Republican against their own self interests fail to see is that conservatives have been fighting vigorously for a 'Christian-branded Sha'ria Law' in America for decades.

There are many people in the United States and around the world who look at Donald Trump and call him an idiot and a fool. He isn't. He is highly intelligent, as I assume Hitler was. Donald Trump knows exactly what to say, when to say it, how loudly, and in what setting. He is brilliant at what he does: manipulate millions of people by tapping into their ignorance and fear. Make no mistake, he WILL be the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

So, America, home that I have had for the last 42 years, how are you going to play this one? Do you really want to go with hatred and division? Do you really want to go with restricting the rights of one group of people? Do you really want to support intimidation and condone attacks against these people? Did you forget the months after 9/11 when scores of Sikhs were singled out by law enforcement and attacked repeatedly by ignorant white citizens? (Fun fact: Sikhs are the people you call 'towel heads' who are not Muslim).

Black lives matter. Muslim lives matter. THAT is America. Not the rhetoric, not the hatred, not the xenophobia, not the 'justifiable' intimidation and violence carried out against those different than you, not standing outside Muslim houses of worship, foaming at the mouth, clutching a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other striking fear and terror into the hearts and minds of innocent Americans, many women and children. Imagine if things were reversed... Imagine if you will, large angry groups of armed Muslims waited for you outside of your church on Sunday, marching and screaming about taking back the country and kicking you out of it. I think you know how that would end. Native Americans talked last week about what would happen if it were them, and not the armed white terrorists, who took over that federal building in Oregon. You know as well. Of course you do.

We have a choice, America. And this choice is the most important one we have had to make in a long time. This is real life, not a drill. Because right now, we are not only a huge embarrassment and disappointment to the entire world that we were once a great example for, but we are also inching dangerously close to becoming Nazis. This is an 'us vs them' moment a 'hate vs love' moment, but it is also a moment for reflection and learning. If you have friends who hold some of these hateful beliefs, you have a better chance of reaching them than I ever will. I implore you to watch the video below, to be honest with yourself about the fact that this is happening every day, and to stand up loudly against it. And wherever possible, please attempt to reach out to and educate those who believe this sort of thing is ok in America.

I don't have to imagine what happens if people don't stop this madness. It only gets worse from here. I could point to people in my own family that would be happy to tell you all about it, but I never learned their names. They perished in Poland. One of many genocides that human beings have gone along with when placed into large groups. Don't let us become the Nazis. Let us become Americans instead. We are much better off that way. All of us.

With love and respect,
Citizen Russell Wolff