A soundbite we hear so often this time of year. What does it mean?
It’s supposed to mean never again will will allow prejudice and hatred of ‘the other’ to descend into evil, into persecution, into murder. It is a promise to humanity. From humanity.
Yet what does it actually mean? Is it a meaningful promise or merely a nice soundbite? ‘Never Again’ means nothing without substantive action to back it up. When history begins to repeat itself, ‘Never Again’ must become action.
#MuslimBan has been trending on Twitter. What is the Muslim ban? An executive order signed by US President Donald Trump (I still can’t believe that actually happened), putting an immediate halt to immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Including Syria.
Closing borders to refugees isn’t new. It has happened in the past, when another populist rose to power. Now I’m not saying Trump is Hitler, that would be hyperbolic. What I am saying is that Trump is echoing Hitler. Targeting a religious minority, publishing a list of crimes committed by ‘illegal aliens’. Two things Hitler did, now being replicated by a man sitting in the most powerful office on earth.
When the leader of the free world is taking away people’s freedoms, ‘Never Again’ has to become more than just words.
Yet I am saddened to have to say, ‘Never Again’ evidently is an empty soundbite. While Trump closes the borders to people in desperate need of sanctuary, Theresa May was holding hands with the man responsible. Instead of honouring the victims of the Holocaust by standing up for those persecuted today, May instead had a cosy chat with Trump. There is no indication that May took Trump to task on anything.
‘Never Again’. What does it really mean? Say what you like about Jeremy Corbyn, but he is very vocal in condemning the Muslim ban. He is the only prominent political leader standing up for minorities and saying ‘No! Not now, not ever!’ to the new US President.
The Statue of Liberty doesn’t, as far as I know, have any small print. The American dream doesn’t discriminate, the American dream is an invitation to the world. ‘Come to America, make your life better!’ is its message. It doesn’t say ‘Stay out, we don’t want your kind here!’. American values are something every American should be proud of; the values of liberty, freedom and prosperity for all. Those values haven’t been lost, but they are being dirtied by the anti-American values of the new president.
‘Never Again’ means promoting those values again, not allowing populists like Trump to trample all over them. We must remember the America of the Civil Rights Movement, the America that fought for workers’ rights, womens’ rights. The America that the world looks up to, aspires to, respects. Not the America of Donald Trump, but the America of Martin Luther King, Jr. The America of John F. Kennedy. The America of Rosa Parks. The America that shook of the shackles of racism and embraced diversity. ‘Never Again’ means fighting to prevent populists from dragging America and the world back into the dark days of racism, xenophobia and general bigotry. Dragging us all back into the age of fear. We must pull back.
‘Never Again’ cannot be allowed to be uttered without action. When people say “Never Again”, we must ask “What will you do?”. When our leaders make speeches on Holocaust Memorial Day condemning the atrocities of the Holocaust, we must hold them accountable for their inaction in standing up against persecuting minorities today.
This isn’t a political issue, this is a humanitarian issue. It is not about right vs. left or liberalism vs. authoritarianism. This is about whether, as human beings, we want to close our hearts and our borders to those suffering. Or do we want to be compassionate and welcoming? Let’s not forget, those affected by the Muslim ban aren’t economic migrants. They are not people seeking a better life, they are people desperately trying to merely have a life. These people are fleeing war, they are not a threat to our ‘way of life’. You know what the biggest threat to our way of life is? Hate and fear. If we allow ourselves to close our hearts and our borders to our fellow human beings, the freedom we hold so dear will be gone. Not taken away by the nefarious ‘other’, but eroded by our own prejudice.
History may not be repeating itself yet, but the lessons of the past must be learned before it does.