***Trigger warning: Holocaust descriptions***
With the stroke of a pen applying his signature, Donald J. Trump issued an executive order banning people from entering the United States of America including refugees seeking asylum.
Fear, heartache, outrage, and shock were visible on the faces of many as families and loved ones were separated in airports—others detained—denying people due process and equal protection while it seems the United States Constitution was being subverted.
Months of fear mongering in his path to the White House—singling out people of the Muslim faith, calling for bans to be implemented and a registry set-up—President Trump took steps to move his discriminatory bluster over to a policy of our Nation.
Series Of Disconcerting Events
Issuing this executive order was one of many moves taken by the new administration causing concern and adding uncertainty as to the credibility and interests behind the decision making (and makers) at the White House.
- January 24th — Executive Order signed to allow for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline to move forward in contradiction to a prior order by the Obama administration.
- January 25th — News emerged that government agencies were directed to cease from releasing information in the form of press releases, updates to department websites and communications via social media posts.
- January 27th — Continuing his lambasting of the press, President Trump concurred with labeling assigned to the media by Steve Bannon referring to them as the “opposition party” while sounding off about them being dishonest and deceitful.
- January 27th — Ban on citizens entering the U.S. from 7 Muslim-majority countries — including refugees (already having undergone a lengthy and in-depth screening process).
- January 29th — Chief strategist and adviser to the President, Steve Bannon, is named to the National Security Council — allowing someone access to information regarding confidential and critical operations. Bannon formerly headed Breitbart News, that published many insidious and inflammatory articles about women, minorities and various groups. Many concerns rest on his ties to the alt-right movement, allowing them a platform, that is openly accepting of racism and Antisemitism.
As the news reports started appearing of massive protests and demonstrations in opposition to the ban, many comments and remarks of people flooded interviews and social media asking many questions including how can this happen in America? How can our country shut the door on refugees fleeing from the terrors of war and genocide amidst a devastating humanitarian crisis?
American history has seen this type of thing transpire before – where tragic lessons of such moments should serve as guidance in preventing history from repeating itself.
“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” —George Santayana
In the Summer of 1939, having already been denied access from Cuba with the lights of Miami, Florida visible, the SS St. Louis cruise liner—carrying over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Europe, with people on board thinking their long nightmare had come to an end—was denied access to dock by U.S. authorities. With nowhere to go, the ship was forced to return to Europe, resulting in over 250 men, women, and children perishing in the Holocaust.
People Never Forget
On the same day the executive order was issued, January 27, 2017, the world was observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This annual day of commemoration honors and pays respect to the victims of the Nazi era that saw the killing of over 11 million men, women, and children, with the overwhelming majority of them having been specifically targeted for extermination because they were Jewish.
The statement released by the White House and reported on to mark this day made no mention of the Jews and raises concern of a revisionist version of historical events being implied, stirring many to speak out on this issue including those who are survivors as well as others who have seen the evidence of where these crimes of hate, intolerance, and discrimination were carried out.
Remembering my own experience as a teenager walking through the death camps of Poland, one can only understand a glimpse of what horrors people faced in that era, the people fleeing atrocities of war and genocide today. In writing about my own thoughts and observations in my journal back then, the images and feelings remain vivid in recollection:
“Cement walls of the gas chamber with the discolored stains…the scratch marks…the oven doors…” (Auschwitz-Birkenau)
Many have been exposed to the type of intolerance and hate that we find worldwide today: it’s beholden upon them to speak up, speak out, and rise up for those who cannot.
Light Of America
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” —Emma Lazarus
As arrogance, hate and disregard for humanity attempt to take root in one area of our executive branch of government, the light of Lady Liberty still burns brightly.
We see this light when Women March.
We see this light when people rise up in Standing Rock.
We see this light when people of all faiths and nationalities stand shoulder-to-shoulder expressing a unified voice against the malfeasance of President Trump’s orders and actions that undermine—misrepresent—who we are as a people.
These moments—where people unite to reject propaganda, alternative facts and ulterior motives that aim to replace truth and moral aptitude—something happens that awakens “we” the people—where those moments become something more—a movement.
OTHER ARTICLES BY STEPHEN KRASNER
A version of this post was originally published on the author’s Huffington Post blog and is republished here with his permission.
Photo credit: Getty Images