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Forgetting Our Roots

November 23, 2015

This old cliche’ could not be more relevant than today, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana).

The current crisis in Syria is a good example of not learning from our past.  The refugees that need asylum have become the Japanese, interned in WWII, of 2015.  There are those that would love to round up all the Muslims in the U.S. and either ship them out or corral them. There are those that would bar all Syrian refugees from our shore, similar to what we did to the Jews who were trying to escape Germany in WWII. It is too easy to label Muslims as terrorists, much the same as we label Hispanics as illegal, blacks as criminals, those on welfare as lazy and druggies. Labels are easy, put a label on, place them in a box and we can feel superior.

Sadly this makes us no different than the Nazis who wanted to purge Germany, no different than ISIS who want to kill all but the faithful to Allah, no different than the trials in Salem that condemned to death anyone different, labeling them as  a witch.

This is not who we are. This country was founded by those who escaped tyranny, religious persecution, and prejudice.  Interestingly, almost every group that has come to this country found persecution, prejudice, and religious intolerance.  Most survived and overcame these obstacles, but have we all forgotten our roots?

The Statue of Liberty has a plaque that reads, “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!” How many of our forefathers came from some other country? Unless you are native American Indian, guess what? You classify as a refugee or an immigrant.

Why have we forgotten who we are? The answer lies in several places but let me list a few.

First, we are lazy.  It is easy to slap a label on anyone or anything different from ourselves and set them or it aside. Our stereotypes help us to not look at a person as a human being, but as category. The homeless are an excellent example of this.  After you sit across a table from a homeless person and have a conversation, it is hard to not see the humanity beaming back at you, and come away with a different perspective. For those so adamant about the Syrian refugee issue, I would ask how many Muslims have you talked to?

Second, we are lazy. Rather than gathering facts, information, or truth for ourselves, we have become puppets to those we think have the answers. We would rather listen to those who think as we do, than to discover or even entertain a new or different opinion. Another fitting quote is from Jim Morrison of the Doors, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” The best example of this is Fox News. Distort the truth, play on people’s fears, offer only one side to a discussion and you can control how people think. The number of people that rely on Fox for news shows how stupid some people in this country have become. On the other side are liberals who read only what agrees with their view, or worse get there news from Twitter. It is easier to continue with one’s prejudice than to challenge that prejudice with truth.

Third, we are lazy. Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”  Thoreau had written in 1851, “Nothing is to be so much feared as fear.” We have become a nation afraid.  We are afraid of people and things we do not understand. Yet, we do not want to take the time to understand , to do the research necessary to ease our fears. Instead we hide behind labels and cower. We are afraid of thinking for ourselves.  We are afraid of having an open, intelligent discussion with those of opposing views. We are afraid of the truth.  As Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.”  What is the truth?

As our forefathers knew, not everyone in America is Christian, hence freedom of religion. Not everyone is going to agree with you, hence freedom of speech. Muslims have every right to be here as do Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons, Atheists, or any other religious group.  Everyone has a right to their own opinion, that opinion can be expressed on social media or any other soap box.

What our forefathers could not see, is a nation intolerant of any religion, any opinion, or a nation so lazy that we would be willing to forget our roots, and shut out refugees from any oppressed nation. It is easy to say I have mine, so stay out. One of our nation’s greatest symbols is the Statue of Liberty, whom some would want to see as a Statue of Intolerance.

There are those who would make Muslims register and carry special ID cards. Why not just tattoo a number on their wrists? Why not just round them all up and place them in camps as we did to U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in WWII? The mentality today of many, including some Christians, is the same as in a different time, different place, caused some to yell, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  America is at a crossroads, will we remain a symbol of freedom or become a symbol of suppression?

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