Never again

 

After the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the world united to say ‘never again’. Never again would any state be allowed to persecute a section of the population on the grounds of their religious beliefs, ethnic background or nationality. Never again would the rhetoric of discrimination and ‘othering’ which allows such persecution to prosper be allowed to gain a foothold in our societies. Never again would we allow the fundamental dignity of all human beings to be so completely eradicated as it had been by the Nazi regime.

Post-World War Two, we as Westerners have been fortunate enough to live in a world in which we have had ample opportunity to learn these lessons, and no excuse to forget them. They have been drilled into us through our education, through remembrance services and through a wealth of documentation of the horrors of the Second World War in the media and in cinema. To varying degrees, we have all been brought up with some understanding of the events which led to the systematic murder of several million Jews, as well as members of other minority groups and countless political opponents. We know the dangers of allowing a stigma against minority groups to fester and to be propagated by the state through claims which tend to be founded on lies, or ‘alternative facts’.

And yet, today, in the year of 2017, the question of just how far these lessons have truly been heeded appears more acute than ever. If the warning sirens were not already sounding during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, they must be heard loud and clear now in the first weeks of his presidency. Never again must the world stand by and watch as one of its most powerful states descends towards the oppression of minority groups and the erosion of fundamental rights.

Many will say that Trump, quite clearly, is not Hitler. That he seeks only to do what is necessary to protect the interests of the United States. They will say, also, that the US constitution and separation of powers will prevent him from having much practical impact. These arguments hold no weight. The man in question holds the most powerful office in the world. His every word has a profound impact and he has more than enough influence to radically alter the lives of millions of people both within the USA and beyond. With the most powerful office comes the greatest responsibility. A duty to respect not only the US Constitution, but the equal rights of all human beings across the world as enshrined in international law since World War Two.

That Trump has shown such flagrant disregard for years of painstaking work following that conflict, for instance in guaranteeing basic rights to refugees and  prohibiting torture and other inhumane treatment, in just two weeks in office is simply mortifying. Rather than dismissing the prospect of Trump inflicting any more serious harm, and focusing on appeasement and trade deals, the rest of the world must now be at its most vigilant in order to protect the liberal values and the rights which so many gave their lives to earn us. We need only look at some of the images and stories from US airports over the weekend in order to see the very real effect that Trump is already having on people’s lives.

It was heartening to see so many Americans unite so swiftly in protest all over the country, and to see sweeping international condemnation of Trump’s latest executive order. This resolve must not lessen as such executive action and policies continue to be rolled out. Indeed, it must strengthen as we remember the values which unite so many of us against Donald Trump and his regime. We simply cannot allow him to undermine the progress made in human rights protection on a global scale in the last 70 years. He has the capacity to take us back to some very dark places. The threat is real.

* Dan Webster is a Lib Dem member and final-year law student at Durham University. He blogs on civil liberties here.

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6 Comments

  • David Evershed 30th Jan '17 - 6:23pm

    This is an argument to bring the UK immigration regulations for EU nationals into line with regulations for non EU nationals. The current UK rules discriminate against immigrants from non EU states.

  • Never again? Fine words but after a very short period of time many of those who survived the Nazi concentration camps in Europe were engaged in the establishment of Israel within Palestine. A relentless policy of ethnic cleansing has been pursued by Israeli governments against the native Palestinian population ever since while the USA and UK governments have either actively supported or turned a blind eye and US and British companies have profited from the arms trade in contradiction of support for UN resolutions.
    Because of Trump the Israelis are now emboldened and have stepped up the illegal settlements activity in the West Bank and demolition of Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert.
    However, we can perhaps stop the appalling Trump’s state visit going ahead if enough people sign the petition – now close to 1.5million signatures – follow link: –
    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

  • Richard Underhill 30th Jan '17 - 8:24pm

    David Evershed: This is spin from Leave.EU and a gross oversimplification. The EEC, EC, EU have been responsible for a series of liberalisations. The rest of the world is not uniform, for instance ALOs only operate in some countries. Denying the vote in the 2016 referendum to people who have made their lives here was truly sickening, Maltese and Cypriots excepted. UK citizens living abroad were denied the vote, but will be allowed a vote in future, too late. People who were allowed the vote by David Cameron in the Edinburgh Agreement were denied the vote in 2016. Democracy?

  • I condemn Trump in all of this, but we need also to fight against religious persecution in all its forms. In many muslim-majority countries there is no freedom of religion, conversion to Christianity is deemed apostasy and punishable by death in many instances. In Pakistan, blasphemy laws allow the death penalty to be handed out on the flimsiest of evidence. May the justifiable outrage over Trump’s discriminatory travel ban act as a launching pad for us ti uphold human rights and oppose religious persecution wherever it occurs.

  • It is true that we never lived up to the fine words. Since the Second World War we’ve had the Cambodian killing camps and concentration camps reappearing in Europe in Serbian Bosnia. The US systematically undermined non-friendly governments in Latin America and to be classed as non-friendly it was enough to do something damaging to the interests of big US companies. In “Communist” Eastern Europe it was worse. But the aim and ideal of international human rights and co-operation never went away. It was indeed founded in the experience of the war. It’s perhaps no coincidence that it’s crumbling when very few people old enough to remember that war as adults or teenagers are left. But those who react to great confusion and some danger with hatred and intolerance, attaching themselves to those who have simple and brutal answers, are few of them young, in Europe and America anyway; and in Africa, Latin America and East Asia there is more democracy and respect for human rights than ever before. The future can be ours if we can survive to get there.

  • It may well be the case that Trump should not be compared to Hitler but let’s not forget that Hitler was Hitler before he was HITLER! He did after all start off as a loudmouthed, beer hall rabble rouser. Ring any bells?

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