As you have probably seen in the past 48 hours, videos of last weekend’s Washington DC meeting of the National Policy Institute, featuring Richard B. Spencer, are now widely available. The images are sickening: hands raised in Nazi salutes, and chants of “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”
We must see that this is not part of politics as usual. We as a nation should not let stand a flourishing return of neo-Nazism. If we remain unreactive to something like this, we are complicit in its underlying thinking. We cannot risk becoming inured to humanity's worst impulses. We have seen that happen before in history, whether during the Apartheid era in South Africa, or during the time of the Weimar Republic in Germany, leading up to the Holocaust.
To be sure, the United States in 2016 isn’t Germany during the Weimar era. Even after a dreadfully divisive presidential campaign, our institutions of state are stronger, our press more insistent on exposing the scourge of those who would band together under the symbolism of the National Socialists. This is why the role played by a press free to report on vandalism such as spray-painted swastikas and other symbols of hate is so important. This is also why airing - and sharing - the video of this weekend’s meeting is so important.
Americans and our friends around the world should all unite across political differences against such hatred, both right and left. We all must stand up and take notice. The threat to the fabric of our country is real: For those who embrace the Nazi inspired “Heil-salute” will surely embrace the idea of a United States without immigrants, Jews, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, an LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, or any marginalized groups.
There is a meme going around the internet now, based on the famous quote by Niemoller:
“First they came for the Muslims, and we told them, ‘Not this time, not this time.’”
Precisely: Not this time. Facing History and Ourselves equips students with skills they need to stand up against incipient racism, prejudice, and antisemitism. Now is the time for all of us to do the same by standing up against the NPI and any other such groups that threaten our polity.
Let's work together to build a world guided by knowledge and compassion, not base bigotry.
President & CEO, Facing History and Ourselves