The author of the following post requested to have their name withheld.
If you think of yourself as a moderate, or a centrist, or “not that into politics,” I’ll be blunt: There are people in this country who want me dead — because I’m Jewish.
Two of my grandparents survived the Holocaust. Their families hid from the Nazis because being found meant taking a one-way train trip to Auschwitz.
History seems to be repeating itself. Not because we have an operational concentration camp system, complete with poisonous gas showers and cattle car trains stuffed full of people. We’re not there yet, although we’re headed in that direction.
A sizeable minority of people are openly, vocally calling for every last illegal immigrant, Muslim, Jew, LGBTQ+ person, woman who gets an abortion, black person, and Latinx person executed, jailed, or deported “back to where you came from.”
They’re on 4chan, they’re on Reddit, they’re on websites like Stormfront, they’re on YouTube commenting on videos with titles like “Holocaust Hoax.” Those people are responsible for the murders at synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego. Those people are responsible for the martyrdom of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. Those people are rationalizing the immoral treatment of human beings at our southern border. They haven’t met a body camera video of a cop shooting an unarmed black person that couldn’t be justified.
99.9 percent of them are past the point of reason. Sure, there are heartwarming videos of former KKK members who realized they were wrong, but they’re a slim minority within a minority, and they’re not worth the precious time and energy it takes to reason with.
You still with me? I sincerely hope so, because if you’ve read this far, I think you’re worth reasoning with.
Let’s return to the Holocaust. A lot of people were Nazis or openly collaborated with them. But there were probably many more people who, not being Jewish, gay, Roma, or any other persecuted minority, were safe. All they had to do was keep quiet and go about their business. Never mind that their Jewish neighbor’s business was trashed during Kristalnacht. Never mind that the two middle-aged women who lived in the upstairs apartment — the ones who everyone in your building knew were probably “together” — disappeared one day without warning.
If you were a good citizen in Nazi Germany or any of the places they occupied, didn’t raise your voice in protest, didn’t argue with your collaborator friends or relatives about the human rights of those dirty Jews or gays or Orthodox Christians, then you could survive. You had the luxury of witnessing genocide from a safe distance for no other reason than winning the genetic or racial or religious lottery.
You think they were deporting centrists to the concentration camps? You think the pedants who said things like “Hitler makes some good points, but I do wish he was a bit more civil” were disappeared with bags over their heads in the middle of the night?
They weren’t. But the Communists were. The anarchists were. The anti-fascists were. Because they weren’t splitting hairs over what actually defined a concentration camp. They weren’t clutching at their pearls in fake outrage over the way Hitler referred to the people he wished to exterminate.
The anti-fascists took action — and sacrificed their lives because of it. A family in the Dutch countryside took my grandmother and her siblings in; they were anti-fascists. The men who smuggled them out of Amsterdam while the Gestapo rounded up Jews were anti-fascists, too. They risked everything for people they owed nothing to.
When the Timbers Army flies the Iron Front flag before games, it is a reminder to me that I am safe here. I am surrounded by the sort of people who, were they alive and given a choice in 1941, would have done the hard, scary thing. They would have stood up to the fascists, even if it meant losing everything.
I wish we didn’t have to worry about this. I really do. I wish the people who spew so much hatred and shoot up schools or sororities or synagogues or black churches could find healing and love and hope. That they could see how scapegoating is a way to channel and direct their own frustration and failure and pain towards innocent people.
And being anti-fascist isn’t only about what we are against. It’s what we are for that is equally important: where no one is malnourished, where no one is unhoused, where no one has to decide between paying for insulin or paying for a new set of prescription glasses, where we protect and heal our degraded planet. There is a meaningful place for you in this kind of world.
Until that day comes, the Iron Front is a reminder of what we fight for. It’s a reminder that we must stand together, because not all of us have a choice: we will have to fight, flee, or die. If you have the luxury of being a bystander, I hope you find the courage and moral fortitude to join us.