The Forgotten Children of Now

The memories of history are too easily forgotten.

One of the largest sections of every American history class is on our national foundation. As a nation we are built on the bedrock of equality, gather strength from the soil of diversity, and plant crops of a better future watered in the toils of those who came before us. Our laboratory of freedom creates opportunity for those who have none elsewhere. Our shores signify safe harbor for those in need of safety. Our strength should be our empathy.

We fought wars over these ideas. We came to the aid of nations who supported these ideas.

This, for me, is why the second World War is probably the second largest section of American history classes. We fought a war to end all wars, and we fought a war to uphold the ideas of our foundation.

It is ingrained in our national psyche that fighting for the freedom of others is important. The continuity of these ideals makes the world a better place.

You could view this as an argument for American exceptionalism, and in a way you would be correct. America is exceptional, and that is a responsibility that we need to be careful with. Exceptionalism is itself a learning curve, and to embrace that curve we cannot forget the past.


1941:

The world is on the brink, and America is not yet at war. Letters are flooding in to the country from refugees across war torn Europe that are fleeing the danger of Nazi Germany. These are humans seeking the safety of their fellow man.

April 30: A Jewish man in Amsterdam writes a letter to an American friend. He seeks safe haven for his family.

“U.S.A. is the only country we could go to,” he scrawled. “It is for the sake of the children mainly.”

This letter came from the father of Anne Frank, Otto Frank. It didn’t save his family.

Global indifference to Jewish refugees prevented Otto and his family from obtaining a visa to America, Britain, or Cuba.

This story is read, analyzed, and discussed in schools across the world. The monumental struggle of Anne Frank and her family for normalcy and a safe life is a humbling story.

No family, desperate for safety, would hide in the heart of an occupied city unless it was absolutely necessary

We all know how the life of Anne Frank ends. And we should all keep her story in mind.

It’s stories like Anne’s that should awaken our responsibility to our fellow man, and cause a strong reaction to such suffering.


2016:

No family, desperate for safety, would hide in the hull of a shaking boat and ride the waves to safety unless it was absolutely necessary.

President Obama vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees, but it doesn’t add up to our pledge of exceptionalism.

Hillary Clinton wants to accept more refugees.

Donald Trump wants to accept none.

Trump has called for a ban on Muslim immigration. He has made refugees toxic. He has fueled an apathy that has already been seen in our history.

The Syrian children displaced by civil war are our Anne Frank.


The Syrian refugee crisis has become too much like our past mistakes. We find danger in those who most need our help and turn them away.

We forgot the children of the past, and now we are forgetting the children of now. History will not look favorably on those who had the power to act, but chose to do nothing.

In 1938 an overwhelming majority of Americans disapproved of Nazi treatment of the Jewish. 72% still opposed the admittance of large numbers of Jewish refugees.

The reasons people opposed refugees are the same today: We should keep our focus inward. We can’t afford that many needy people. We can’t let them take our jobs. We can’t let them threaten us. We can’t let them change us.

America was capable of adapting then, just as it is now.

That’s what makes us exceptional.