If you came here today to read about personal injury law, fuggedaboutit.
The question today is, if Trump tries to register Muslims as he has previously promised to do, what will you do?
And one answer comes from Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, who said, “As Jews we know what it means to be forced to register.”
As I sit here, I can’t believe I’m actually typing this stuff. But, in fact, one Trump sycophant, Carl Higbie, has cited one of the most reprehensible episodes of our last 100 years in support of the idea that this is a viable option: That being the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII pursuant to an executive order, and the subsequent Supreme Court holding in Korematsu v. United States that this was legal.
The decision is widely derided as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever. And while few could imagine it ever being upheld if the issue came before the high court again, you never know what happens when a charismatic person whips up hysteria. The fact that it is being discussed is mind-blowing in itself.
Greenbelt went on to write,
“I pledge to you that because I am committed to the fight against anti-Semitism that if one day Muslim-Americans are forced to register their identities, that is the day this proud Jew will register as Muslim. Making powerful enemies is the price one must pay, at times, for speaking truth to power.”
While no one knows right now what Trump will actually do — there is no shortage of “ideas” he spouted on the campaign trail that are devoid of substantive discussion — this is one that actually affects the very essence of our republic (and is one hell of a recruitment poster for Islamic militants).
With this as a prelude, we turn to the issue of whether we follow Greenblatt’s example if Trump actually carries through on his madness. Two arguments in favor. First, there is the poem of Pastor Martin Niemöller, who wrote “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.” You know the rest.
The second comes from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. I remember being struck by something as I visited as a teen — the very first thing visitors saw was a row of trees outside the museum, called the Righteous among the Nations. Each tree was dedicated to and honored non-Jews who had risked their lives to save Jews during WWII. This was the thing, above all else, that the designers of the museum wanted people to see first.
I am not sitting here typing that Trump = Hitler. But there is no doubt that the alt-right now feels empowered, the KKK and American Nazi party are celebrating, and that there are likely to be substantial, additional instances of bigotry during the course of the coming administration.
As NYT columnist Paul Krugman wrote on Twitter:
So, Trump has selected a white supremacist as strategist, a racist as AG, and a crazy Islamophobe for Nat Sec. But we can work with him!
I am not so wise as to be able to predict the future, for I most surely did not predict that we would be here now as a nation.
It matters not one whit whether the attacks are against Muslims, African-Americans, Jews or any other group.
The lessons of Pastor Niemöller, and the lessons of those honored as the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, should speak to all of us.