04/14/2014 03:34 pm ET Updated Jun 14, 2014

Anti-Semitism in Europe and Kansas City

Americans are tempted to shrug off tragedies like yesterday's murder of three Jews in Kansas City as the work of crazy people. There seems to be less of a threat to the rest of us if the murderers are insane, rather than motivated by ideology or religious hate. That's a dangerous attitude to take anywhere.

Kansas City is the American heartland. Kiev and Athens and Riga and Moscow are far away. But there are stirrings across the world that do not permit us to think of anti-Semitism and murder as isolated outbursts by madmen. There are political forces all over the world that are bringing Nazi ideology and symbols and language into mainstream political institutions. We ignore them at our own peril.

In Kansas City, we're told that the murderer yelled "Heil Hitler." In Kiev leaders of the political movements Right Sector and Svoboda have published "Stop The Criminal Activities Of Organized Jewry." And World Without Nazism, a European organization working with the European Parliament and elected officials from across Europe has published a 1,000-page, country-by-country investigation of Nazi and neo-Nazi movements. Some are fringe elements or crazy people. Some are organized political parties with membership in their national legislatures. Some honor Hitler and his SS legions. Some engage in organized street violence against Jews, Romanisch people, gays and immigrants. None of them will go away quietly.

I certainly hope the murders in Kansas City are the responsibility of a raving lunatic. Even if so, the evidence elsewhere should give us pause. And where Nazism raises its head, we should be there in opposition.

In 1935 as Nazism got organized in Europe the great American novelist Sinclair Lewis wrote "It Can't happen Here," a tale of an American Fascist up-swelling. Well, 80 years later, It Can Happen Here. It did.