From A Jewish American: Crying And Fearful After The Presidential Election

Janet Muchnik crying
Janet Muchnik is former Village Manager of Park Forest. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
By Janet Muchnik

I can not stop crying. And the nagging fear that was always at the back of my mind is smacking me in the face.

WE have been here before.

WE come from a people who moved through history always seeking if not a welcoming home, then a tolerant one.

The Crusades ethnically cleansed us on their path to the Holy Land. Spain under a century of Muslim rule welcomed us. Then the Christians evicted us and those who remained suffered the Spanish Inquisition. Some escaped and fled across Portugal or the Netherlands to the colonies.

Others migrated to Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Often clustered into ghettos and not ever really welcome, we survived. And in some countries, we thrived.

Some even got rich.

Until Hitler.

Elected to office, slowly but surely he built on the resentments of a country that lost a war. He fanned the flames of nationalism, white ethnic superiority, and he identified a scapegoat for their problems: the Jews.

Did the Jews see it coming? Not soon enough. By then, who would take them. No one. Japan and China – a few. When rounding them up for extermination, his long rake reached into Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Holland, France, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

They pulled whole families out of their homes, shoved them into cattle cars and pushed them into gas ovens.

And so 6,000,000 were put to death.

A few rose to help.

Others said, afterwards, “We did not know.” You saw your neighbors torn out of their homes and marched through the streets to be taken away and you did not know????

“We were afraid.”

Yes I believe that. But I really believe you were glad. You could have my house and goods. Why didn’t we see it coming? We had found a home. We didn’t want to believe it. And then the doors closed everywhere else.

So now we have elected a Hitler. In America. Carried by nationalist fervor, isolationism and fear of the “other” we have elected a Hitler.

His last ad before the election? Blatantly anti-Semitic. Blatant. When a Fascist comes to power, we are always in the list. And when his supporters hate “others,” we are always part of the others.

I never thought I would live to see this kind of hate in America but I know it means I have to think about what to do.

His followers will be feeling powerful right now. Will they volunteer en masse to build the wall and assist with a mass deportation of Mexicans and other Central Americans? Will they then turn to Muslims, drive them out of the country? What about African-Americans?

This is reminiscent of the people who stood around and watched lynchings. Not just the ones who said nothing but those who cheered. It is those people I fear. They have spent several generations nursing their bruised egos and feeling more and more put upon. They have been encouraged to come out in the open to try again.

Maybe they will just apply the Hitler rules: separate schools but only elementary school, no access to the professions,etc. Then us.

Will we see it coming? Where will we go? Who will take us? Where will we be safe?

I just can not stop crying.

But this time We need to think clearly.

The writer is a former Village Manager of Park Forest.