19 November 2015

I Fear the Politicians, Not the Terrorists

I grieve for Paris, having visited there last December, and fallen in love during nearly a week of long walks, fabulous art and architecture, and an awesome playground for kids of all ages. I grieve for the Parisians, who will develop the sixth sense that New Yorkers have had since 9/11, knowing when terror threats are up just by the posture of the police officers.

But I'm more frightened by politicians like Donald Trump and Chris Christie than I am about the possibility of another attack on New York City. I'm terrified by the fear of the foreigner that they're stoking, by the fact that they're telling the American people that we should be afraid of Muslims.

I've been trying to write this post without waving the flag of the personal, but I can't seem to get beyond it. My grandfather fought on the wrong side of World War II. He may have commanded a Nazi tank, but the family stories are vague and full of conflict. I could go to the archives in Berlin, but I'm not sure I'm ready to face the truth, whatever it may be.

But this I know: I can not sit silently when people demonize an entire religion, an entire race, an entire people. And I can not sit silently, because of who I am. Because for my whole life I have lived with inherited guilt, with the nagging fear that fascism is somehow part of my genetic code. At the same time, I have lived my entire life feeling a sense of responsibility to speak out against bigotry of any form.

But how to speak out against Trump and Christie and the twenty-odd other governors who have said they don't want any Syrians in their states? I don't even know where to start. I try to think in words and I can only hear a keening in my brain, a mad banshee scream of terror.