Several years ago I attended a two-day seminar led by Holocaust survivors. Their message to the audience of educators was that we have an obligation to stand up publicly to defend groups that are being stereotyped and dehumanized like Jews and other groups were in Germany.
These aging survivors told us that they were more fearful of those who stay silent in the face of hatred than of those who promote the hatred because silence gives a small group undue power. They described the vandalism to Jewish synagogues and businesses and the language used to degrade their humanity.
That message has returned to me as I watch groups of armed, masked men threaten Muslims as they enter their mosques and reports of insults and vandalism grow daily.
Many governors as well as some presidential candidates insist that we must deny entrance to Syrian refugees because Muslims are our enemy and cannot be trusted. Jews, according to the Holocaust survivors, were portrayed as enemies and untrustworthy. Fear controlled their environment. Terrorism has been successful throughout history when fear overtakes reason because making people afraid is always the goal of a terrorist.
The fears being fanned by some in media and politics today will do nothing to defeat ISIS. The anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric that dominates our airwaves today should remind us of the past described by those survivors and must be challenged by all of us who do not want to see history repeat itself.