Perhaps I am naive, but I don’t worry too much about our country indulging in mass killings of Muslims by the the government. We are not Nazi Germany. I could be wrong, of course: if you had told me fifteen years ago that we would not only indulge in torture but defend its use, and detain people indefinitely without due process, in some cases even after they are determined to be innocent of wrongdoing, I would have scoffed. As I said, I was wrong, terribly so.
No, I don’t fear Auschwitz. Heart Mountain, maybe, but not Auschwitz.
What I fear most is a Kristallnacht, spurred on by demagogues and racists and abetted by fearful people.
I fear halal butcher shops will be firebombed.
I fear women will have their hijabs torn from their head.
I fear Sikh men will be beaten by ignorant people who think that Muslims wear turbans.
I fear Muslim children will be harassed and bullied because of their religion.
I fear crazy, ignorant, people will call in their Muslim neighbors to the FBI, claiming “terrorist” activity that doesn’t exist, because “well, they must be plotting something.”
I fear that, sooner or later, a mosque will be sprayed with automatic gunfire. People at prayer will die.
Unlike Germany, the government will not orchestrate this; it will not take place on one night; instead it will become a rolling wave of hatred, increasing as it goes.
Some politicians will do the right thing: condemn the attackers, speak up for the attacked, and pledge justice to the victims. Others will begin by saying how awful it is, but go on to excuse the evil, saying “You have to understand, people are scared. After the Paris attacks, people know that it is just a matter of time before that happens here, and we have to protect ourselves.”
Rationally, I don’t think this will happen, or not more than the isolated and upsetting incidents already taking place. But evil is not rational: Auschwitz was not rational, Heart Mountain was not rational, Abu Ghraib was not rational. And the realpolitik response to those who espouse hatred against Muslims — that these acts of violence become a recruiting tool par excellence for ISIS and Al-Qeada — carries no weight because bigotry is not rational. The more important response — we do not do these things because we are Americans and our nation espouses to be better than that — will be met with the pseudo-rational answer that “Values won’t help you if you are dead,” as if we are not all going to die sometime, anyway.
It is a matter not of how we die but how we choose to live. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” can be asked of nations, too.