Imagine if your child came home from school one day and told you a story of a schoolmate. His schoolmate was cornered and thrown to the ground. He was kicked and beaten there on the playground asphalt for all to see.
What would you do?
Would you tell your child if it happened again to run and get help, to find an adult who could intervene?
Would you tell your child they should stand up for the child being hurt?
Would you tell your child to walk away because it’s not their problem, they shouldn’t get involved?
Would you tell your child that the schoolmate on the ground probably did nothing wrong but you can’t be too sure?
I’ve yet to meet a parent whose first reaction would be to tell their child it’s acceptable to watch another child get the shit kicked out of them and do nothing. I don’t know a single parent who, at the very least, wouldn’t tell their child to run and get help for someone in need.
Substitute the stage and the actors and it sums up the knee-jerk reaction to the current refugee crisis.
Listen guys. I’m as left leaning in my politics as they come, but I’m not stupid.
I understand the hesitation. I understand the fear. You see, I’m scared too. I’m scared for myself and for my family. I’m terrified for my kids; not just their day-to-day safety, but the world they’re growing up into. A world where planes seem to fall out of the sky and going out to dinner runs the risk of ending not with dessert, but with death.
I understand the fear. I feel it in my gut when I’m trying to sleep, in my heart when I kiss my kids goodbye.
Fear, when channeled, can be a useful tool. A little bit of fear keeps us on our toes. It keeps us alert. In the most basic biological sense, fear keeps us from becoming food for predators.
But there’s a world of difference between fear and loathing.
Fear may drive us to protect, to practice self-preservation. But sometimes along the way fear gets perverted into something else, something more sinister. Something like loathing.
Loathing is what happens when you let fear get out of control, when you let it take over, when you let it dictate personal beliefs and policies.
Loathing is what happens when you start to believe there is no separation between the one and the million.
If you need a reminder of what loathing looks like, pick up a history book. You don’t have to look far. Not all that long ago, the world turned its back on the Jewish population of Europe.
How bad can it get? It’s not our problem. It’s not something we have to worry about.
Have you never wondered how ordinary people were coerced into thinking an entire religion bore responsibility for their troubles?
Just read the news. Just watch what is happening on a global scale.
Tell me how Donald Trump’s proposition of creating a register for Muslims is any different than forcing a Jew to wear a yellow star?
How is closing mosques –just in case– any different than closing synagogues?
Perhaps Muslim owned businesses are harboring potential terrorists. Let’s stop shopping there. Let’s convince everyone else to stop shopping there too. In fact, let’s bar Muslims from owning businesses altogether. It’s the only way to be safe.
But wait. Perhaps Muslims are funding jihadists overseas. Better to confiscate their earnings and bar them from having access to banks and funds.
Surely those neighborhood mosques are just breeding grounds for terrorists. Let’s shutter them.
In fact, it’s safer to have everyone in one place so we can keep an eye on what’s going on. Better to make them all live together in one section of the city. It’s safer that way, they won’t be corrupting the rest of us with their ideas.
Look at the way they live, no better than animals. Why we should we treat them any better than animals? Why should they use up our resources? Why should we be responsible for their upkeep when they can’t even take care of themselves?
It’s in the space between fear and loathing that we go from us to them. It’s in that space we go from compassion to disgust. In the space between fear and loathing, we go from viewing another as a fellow human being to seeing something else, something less.
I may be a left-leaning liberal, but I’m not stupid.
There is evil out there. There are terrorists intent on doing as much harm as they can, inflicting as much pain and suffering and death as they can. There is fear and uncertainty. I know, because I am afraid too. But as human beings we have an obligation to stop our fear from turning into something more. Before it turns to loathing.
We’ll never forget, the world said in 1945.