When I was a young girl, I was obsessed with Anne Frank. I read the book, the play, watched the movie. In my teenage years and on into adulthood I have held on to a fascination with historical fiction- and non- about the Holocaust. I think I read story after story simply because could NOT imagine that that was a thing the world allowed to happen. I visualized myself as Anne. I visualized my self as the heroes who hid them; could I? Would I? Would my parents? Would my circle of people?
Or would we turn a blind eye to protect our own families?
And is there a right answer?
Do you protect your own or do you risk it all for all of the others?
Is there actually an end and a beginning between you and I?
Does it matter if there is?
In college, while studying abroad in the UK, I traveled around Europe quite a bit. The scenes from those books whispered in my ear. Passing through the German countryside by train– not lost on me. Being stopped and forced to de-train by a shouting Czech soldier (there was a “mad cow” outbreak in Europe at the time; we had to decontaminate our shoes)– not lost on me.
And then, in Amsterdam, I had the great privilege to visit the actual Anne Frank house. To climb past the movable bookcase she described so perfectly, to walk up the stairs behind it that hid the staircase and into the room where she slept- her childhood clippings still attached to the wall. From the street, it was just any other house but walking into it and through the rooms made me hold my breath- it felt sacred. It was.
Hers was just one story in all of the stories- the one we all know the best. Those haunting little girl eyes–her words still etched on our hearts today:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Today, we woke up in an America where one of the proclaimed leaders of the alt-right movement is now in the President-elect’s inner circle, hate crimes over the past week are being downplayed, the media is portraying a solid family man who will move to the middle, and folks in the opposition are starting to fight amongst themselves.
Reading those books as a child, I wondered how it all happened, how could Germany have voted this man into power? And let him keep it?
No one USED the word “Holocaust” until after it happened; until we needed a term for it. A dictator doesn’t walk out into a rally and say “I’m a fascist and I am going to exterminate most of you.” It happens very slowly. It creeps in. It sits just under the surface until someone cunning enough to flip it over and expose its belly comes along. And at that point? Too late, we’re on our backs and cannot flip the turtle. We will flail and kick and fight– but we are decidedly on. our. backs.
To my people preparing for our response:
First, the world is watching. And we have a responsibility to right this wrong. We don’t have the luxury of giving him a chance.
Second, please let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves. Please.
Yes, give advice on how to be an “ally”– but don’t shame me for wearing a safety pin.
Do not fight about who is MORE marginalized than anyone else in this group. If one of us is, ALL OF US ARE.
Third, think before you react. Now is NOT the time to fuel the childish backlash about “sore losers.” There has never been a more important moment to GO HIGH.
Fourth, if you are a person in a position of privilege, now is the actual time to come out of your comfort zone. This is actually not a drill. This is the time. Donate. Speak up. Question church leaders. Push back on friends who get lulled into complacency.
Here me Trump supporters:
I know that by and large, you who voted for Trump (well within your constitutional right, so lefties let’s stop the finger pointing; if they showed up to the polls, they are actually better than some of our friends who didn’t vote out of “protest”) are not blatant racists, alt-right, KKK.
The problem, though, is that your vote, whether you knew it or not, signaled a hall pass.
You decided that an endorsement by the KKK was forgivable if only “our” jobs come back. You shrugged off the suggestion of registries for Muslims. You were able to overlook the sexual assault charges of a minor now pending in court.
You helped flip the turtle and then turned your back.
Turning a blind eye got 6 million people exterminated in Europe.
At the very least, I hope that I am being an alarmist here and that we all go back to happy, ignorant complacency (note the sarcasm drip) and well filtered Instagram photos. I would be so, so happy to own that; I was so wrong! He’s a total sweetheart! Those white supremacists in the cabinet are my BOOs y’all, I was sooooo wrong!
What if I’m not? Are you prepared for the consequences of your complacency?
This is a question that you actually, today, must ask yourself and then check out resources on how to take action.
Whatever you do, do NOT be silent.
“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.” –Anne Frank