“Never again.” It is both a promise and a declaration of war, a method for peace and a destructive force.
“Never again,” they said, as the white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
“Never again,” they said, as torches were lit and the swastikas were raised.
“Never again,” they said, as a woman was killed and 19 more were injured.
“Never again” does not work if people are unwilling to fight for it. The intolerance and hatred is happening right in front of us; we are simply in denial. Despite the outcry from celebrities and progressive politicians, the intolerance perseveres. Every day, immigrants, people of color, Jews, and Muslims face discrimination and abuse. Charlottesville is only a manifestation of our country’s internalized racism and anti-Semitism. None of this is new. Voter suppression, the criminalization of black youth, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries are proof. As a society, we still struggle with the prejudices that we had 50 years ago; it comes in waves. The last election cycle only made racists and bigots feel as if their voices were being heard and that their opinions were valid. We must prove them wrong.
America is at a crossroads ideologically. We have racists and anti-Semites openly brandishing symbols of hate. We also have activists revolting against the wave of intolerance to spread a wider message of hope and acceptance. For the message of hope and tolerance to overcome the one of hatred, we must act. An unwillingness to speak out against violence and bigotry sends the message that what we are experiencing as an American society is acceptable and tolerated. As a country, we need to determine the kinds of people that we want to be and how we want to be perceived by the rest of the world. As a Jew and an American, I am not okay with my country – the land of the free and the home of the brave – being known as an intolerant, backwards nation. We are so much more than that, as represented by our incredible diversity, freedoms that we too often take for granted, and our economic opportunities.
This is a time where we need to come together as a nation and stand against the violence and bigotry displayed in Charlottesville last weekend. The rest of the world looks to us as an example, and if we begin normalizing racism and anti-Semitism, the rest of the world will follow. I believe in our ability to do so as much as I believe in “never again.”