We want to believe we’re good people. Most of us do. Most of us try. We fail, quite often, but we try. And we read our history books, and we think of ourselves as being on the side of the angels. Of course we would have been abolitionists and given anti-slavery speeches and helped people on the Underground Railroad. Of course we would have stood against Hitler and protected Jews and helped them escape the Nazis. Of course we would have marched for civil rights and dismantled segregation and condemned MLK’s assassin. Of course. Of course we would have been the Good Guys.
Would we? Are we? Are we really?
I’m seeing an awful lot of people in my country who would have been agreeing with slaveowners that of course they could keep humans as property, and anyone thinking differently should be shouted down, and any government trying to end the institution should be rebelled against. I’m seeing a horrifying number of people who would have agreed with Hitler that there was something evil about those Jews, and helped round them up on cattle cars, and considered themselves patriotic as they fought for Nazi Germany. Of course, we already knew a disturbing number of our citizens pretend to love MLK while they fight to uphold the white supremacy he and other activists struggled to dismantle.
This is one of those times when you discover what you’re made of. This is a time when the ideals of your country are tested. Right now is when we find out what kind of people we would have been. And it turns out that many Americans are exactly the people our history books tell us we should abhor.
Let’s read some headlines, then, shall we?
Muslim Women Shot at and Attacked with Rocks in Tampa After Leaving Mosque (autoplay video at link)
Let’s look at what’s been happening in our schools.
If you’re one of those people attacking women in headscarves and vandalizing mosques and terrorizing schools and schoolchildren for being the slightest bit Muslim, congratulations. You’re wearing the black hat. You’re going down in history – right along all the other assholes who caused immense human suffering, or enabled it.
If you’re engaging in or encouraging the hysteria against Muslims and any brown people who seem sort of Muslimy, you’re one of the people who’s terrorized a little girl into believing the army will come for her and her family at any moment. How does it feel?
No one should be under any illusions. Humans are entirely capable of wiping a whole subset of people off the planet for believing in the “wrong” religion, for their skin color or ancestry or any of a thousand other petty reasons. Nothing about America makes us better than the others. We’re not immune. And right now, we’re letting ourselves slide into fascism.
Now is the time when we find out who we are. Are we a nation that allowed a religious group to be persecuted, who tarred all members with the actions of an extremist few, and brought to power extremists of our own? Or are we the nation that stood against hate?