I never thought that people could be so cruel. I never thought that history would repeat itself.
I mean…come on. We have come so far, changed so much. Revolutions in politics, social norms, morals, ethics have happened. Therefore, I would have expected that various current events would have never repeated themselves.
Last night, while watching NBC Nightly News, I was shocked to see that the statistics for anti-Semitic acts have escalated. In the last three months, across 14 states, over 130 bomb threats have been made. At least three Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated.
I watched a video of a high school being evacuated, innocent children scurrying along the sidewalk with their hands on their heads.
This image haunts me. Children should never have to run with their hands on their heads, this submissive set of V’s, these broken wings fluttering against the wind.
I staged/blocked the arrest scene in our school’s production of The Dairy of Anne Frank. And the annex-individuals exit the stage with their hands on their heads, these pathetic broken wings fluttering in vein against the steam-rolling hatred that will eventually obliterate them and scatter their ashes in the wind.
I can not stand this hatred. I can not sit here on my bed where I am currently writing this post and ignorantly turn my head.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.”
I am speaking. I am standing here (actually, I’m sitting…but just work with me) and I’m saying something.
I planned a year ago to teach Elie Wiesel’s Night. Today, I walked the students through the entrance of Auschwitz, explained to them the horrors done by Dr. Mengle. I told them about how Dr. Mengle operated on two sets of twins with whom I share a last name. We read about the Jews walking through corridors of electrified barbed wire, how they said the prayer of the dead for themselves.
“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.”
I was criticized today for not taking the day off, the day in which women were encouraged to stay home as a form of protest. Several of my colleagues chose to do so. I respect their choices. I didn’t. I have a state exam next week and today I needed to review with my students on the procedures of taking the exam. I also know that a huge project completed last week ate up time I wanted to use with teaching Night. Therefore, I went to work and muddled my way through the day because of exhaustion. Stress related to the play, related to various and sundry issues flipped me from side to side and I floundered in my bed like a dying fish.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.”
I regret so many times when I could have done something and chose not to because I wasn’t comfortable. I regret standing aside and allowing someone else to take the fall because I was cowardly. I regret.
I regret silence and cowardice. I regret the toxicity of snowball cold anxiety twisting my guts and sewing my mouth shut. I regret not turning around today to ask a student whom I didn’t teach and didn’t recognize if she was okay because she looked terribly sad.
I am haunted by stories of children being bullied and adults standing idly by, choosing not to become involved because….
They were distracted?
They didn’t think anything bad was happening?
They didn’t want to be pulled from their comfort zones?
A comfort zone should never include a muffler, blinder, and set of ear muffs. A comfort zone should never include the ability to say, “I’ll get to it later.”
No, stand. Speak. Move. Because then, the final verse of Martin Niemöller’s poem reminds me of why we must stop, speak, stand….
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Next week is production week. Next week, on closing night, one hundred percent of ticket sales will be used to purchase books for the education outreach program within the local Holocaust museum.
Hatred can only be ended through education. Through education, we are able to show that hatred has no real meaning, that racism engenders no power hierarchy but only pain and suffering. Through education, we are able to show the horrific flaws of history and use this knowledge not only to say, “Never Again,” but to live the premise of “Never Again.”
The money we will collect will be paltry in comparison to what could be done. This is nothing like the people who helped the Franks and provided food and clothing to the people in hiding. This is nothing to those who truly put their lives at risk.
But this is what I can do. I have scratched together as much research and information as I could in order to teach my students about the people they are representing. And the students took this information, this history and worked to create a breathing ghost of history. Even the most antagonistic members of the annex have been humanized.
Sometimes, my fears of offending people knits my words into floundering gasps of air caught in my lungs.
Other times, I push forward and decide that the right thing should never be offensive.