Alas, alas. The ghost has not been exorcised. The nationalism that we considered dead and buried at the end of the Second World War is more visible and obvious than at any time since 1945. U.S. President Donald Trump’s nativist populism, Brexit in Britain, the rise of the hard right in eastern and central Europe and now the prominence of anti-immigrant parties even in traditionally liberal Scandinavia. It’s of genuine concern.
No intelligent person thought that the toxins pumped into the bloodstream of the European body politic in the 1930s would ever completely disappear. But we assumed, surely, that there were limits, that it would generally be controlled, and that — if we’re honest — it simply couldn’t happen close to home, and certainly not here.
In Canada, common sense still dominates, but anti-Muslim feeling is out there in force. In recent months, Faith Goldy, an ultra-nationalist candidate — who describes herself as a devout Christian — ran to be mayor of Toronto, while senior politician Maxime Bernier made an extraordinary series of comments questioning diversity and then broke from the federal Conservatives to form his own party.
In Britain, a recent survey revealed that close to 40 percent of Jewish people would consider emigrating if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister. The Labour Party is no fringe group — it’s the voice of the left and of progress and social democracy. Corbyn’s enormously clumsy blurring of lines between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is quite an obscene development.
While Corbyn may come from a radically different place than the rest, there is a continuum at work here, and one that totally contradicts the Christian narrative. If we seriously believe in the Gospel message, we have to regard every person not only as a representative of God, made in God’s image, but also as quintessentially individual. Collective typecasting is never helpful, often dangerous and always anti-Christian.
Talk of "they" or "those people" leads down a dark road to an even darker place. Every leader, party or philosophy that scapegoats others has to first expunge people’s humanity, to make them appear a faceless mass intent on harming and hurting. This is what the Nazis did to the Jewish community and other targets, and it’s also what the Turks did to the Armenians, the Hutu to the Tutsi in Rwanda, and so on wherever genocide rears its head.
We are, thank God, a long way from that living hell at the moment. But when Muslims — even in Canada — are treated as threats rather than neighbours, when neo-Nazis gather in German towns and cry for National Socialism, we know we cannot be, must not be, complacent.
As a popular quote commonly, if mistakenly, attributed to anti-Nazi pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." Right now, the noises are not deafening and might conveniently be ignored. This would be fatal, because evil talk becomes evil screams becomes evil deeds.
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