Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here 256

Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here

More than a year after the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the American political landscape reflects the yawning divides highlighted on that violent day and reveals the extent to which extremist beliefs have become part of the mainstream.

As the 2022 midterm election campaign kicks into high gear, I’m deeply concerned about the state of that landscape. The organization I lead, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), is currently tracking more than 100 problematic political candidates who promote extreme views, associate with extremists, or promote potentially dangerous conspiracy theories.

Growing support for such candidates demonstrates a continuing shift of the parameters of what is considered “normal” or “acceptable” in political and social discourse, and signals an expanding mainstream acceptance of extreme beliefs and ideologies.

In my new book, “It Could Happen Here,” I discuss the very real possibility that if current trends persist, we could be on a path toward the emboldening of extremists and the further wearing down of our traditional institutional protections as have happened in other countries around the world. This could lead to a much shrewder demagogue rising to power in the highest office of the land, or, alternatively, a series of opportunistic mini-demagogues on either the right or left attaining power and further eroding our norms.

I wrote this book because we must confront that possibility. As a Henry Crown Fellow, I have learned how to engage in hard issues and learn about leadership from a group of peers -- that prepared me for the challenge of running ADL at a time when such extremism and hate in America is demonstrably on the rise.

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In many ways, Aspen and its tradition of thoughtful conversation epitomizes how we need to move forward here. You might think people are powerless against the forces of hate, but rest assured we’re strong. When we all decide to join the fight and bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice – as Dr. King once so powerfully attested – we can accomplish extraordinary things. Again and again, we at the ADL have seen entire communities come together to reaffirm common standards of decency and inclusivity in the face of antisemitism, racism and bigotry.

There are AGLN Fellows are on the frontlines of this struggle. And as leaders, we must continually look for ways to make a profound difference in our families, communities and beyond. We should examine our own biases, educate ourselves and others, and serve as allies to others experiencing harassment. We should affirm the values of tolerance and inclusivity that continue to make this country a haven for all people. And we should advocate for social justice and perform small acts of caring and compassion.

I have personally taken steps in this regard. In November 2016, when there were reports that the Trump Administration was considering creating a Muslim registry, I publicly declared that I would be the first person to sign up as a Muslim. This was one of way that I saw I could set an example of how we, as leaders, can rise to the challenge at a moment when others around us are at risk of discrimination and hate. My new book is my latest example of how I’m using my platform to raise awareness of the serious issues dividing our society at this current moment.

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Speech from the #NeverisNow summit pledging to register in solidarity if there was a Muslim-American registry


The unthinkable could happen here in America. But it doesn’t have to, and it won’t, if we care enough to stand up to those who are attempting to tear at the fabric of society.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, a Henry Crown Fellow, is CEO and National Director of ADL
Blog AGLN Blog 02/25/2022 4:22pm EST

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