What is meant by "ethnic cleansing"? According to Google, it is "the mass expulsion or killing of members of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society."
Apparently, that is what occurred during World War II when Hitler attempted to decimate Jews by killing millions of them, something which today is referred to as the "Holocaust." Almost everyone today continues to be in shock that such a thing could even happen, but it did.
Ethnic cleansing kind of sneaks up on you. Although most of the people in Germany knew it was happening, they tended to ignore it because it did not directly affect them. Also, it probably sounded like a good program, since it got rid of undesirables and people who competed with them for economic success.
Writing about this atrocity later, Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) has written about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a socialist," Niemoller wrote. "Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."
Although Niemoller changed some of the groups named throughout his life, always inserting groups that people would readily identify with, the poem's meaning remains poignant.
I find this account of history extremely scary and wonder if something like it is actually happening right under our noses in our country.
Anti-Semitism appears to be intensifying in our country. In 2017, the Anti-Defamation League recorded a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents from the previous year -- including bomb threats, assaults and vandalism. And, when white nationalists and neo-Nazis marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., last year chanting, "Jews will not replace us," our President is said to have responded by claiming that the marchers "included some very fine people."
Let's think about this for a moment. Lead by strong voices within our government, there is a rather violent outcry in our country today against Muslims, Hispanics and certainly against anyone attempting to become an immigrant. And we citizens who do not fall into any of these categories either quietly acquiesce or join the chorus against them. After all, our economy is at stake, and we certainly do not want any undesirables to become leaders in our country. Suffice it also to point out that eliminating natural born people from being American citizens because they happen to be born from the wrong parents is anathema to most people and certainly against the U.S. Constitution.
More recently, we have learned that transgender people are routinely being purged from the military and are losing the protection of federal law. "Straight" people tend to applaud this action, claiming that people are born either male or female as defined by their genitalia. However, around 2 percent of the people in the world have been born with anomalies that do not fit this description. Do we just get rid of the people we don't like? I certainly do not like the images of homosexuals portrayed by Hollywood, but I have learned throughout the years that there are a tremendous number of homosexuals and lesbians who are living among us as good and productive citizens.
It gets a little scarier. Recently, our President has declared himself to be a "nationalist," a title that many people regard as simply affirming that he is for "America first," as evidenced by the cheering crowd who urged him to use that word. However, that label is normally embraced by "white" nationalists like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who does not hesitate to commend nationalism for "white Americans."
Even scarier is the recent declaration that the "media is the enemy of the people." Whoa! I certainly do not like a lot of what the media prints and certainly not "false stories" designed to influence people to its way of thinking; but if we eliminate the free press in favor of controlling it, as some countries do, we are opening the door to the inevitable destruction of what we in America enjoy as the freedom to live as we want and to speak what we believe.
All of this makes me wonder if Niemoller is right and ethnic cleansing is occurring in our country today without us either recognizing it or accepting it because we like the results even if we don't like the sound of it.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the fire department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 12/05/2018
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