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Monday, August 14, 2017

Speak it: This is Not Okay.

My first year of college, I took an adolescent literature class. For our final, we each had to give a presentation of a popular YA book. The quietest girl in class, someone I'd spoken only a handful of words to, was the last one to present. She had been given The Book Thief, a book about a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. 
 
As she began her presentation, she placed a giant black and white picture in the front of the room. It was gruesome and hard to look at...piles and piles and dead children, scooped up and pushed aside in the street, people politely walking around their bodies. 

She gestured to the picture, to the people who seemed so unfazed, and referenced the book, talking about learning about these things in hindsight. "What do you think you would have done," she asked, "If this had been your reality? If you had been around when this was happening?" This led to a class-wide conversation about standing up for the rights of others and speaking out against evil. Many of us made incredulous comments about how insane it was that the rest of the world stood by and let this evil happen for so long. We wouldn't have done that, we said confidently. 

"I'm glad you feel that way." She said, moving to the picture. She pulled it apart, showing they were actually two prints, not just one. "Because this picture was taken in 1946 in Germany, and this one," She gestured to the bodies piled up in the street. "This one was taken last week, in Iraq." 

I will never, ever forget the way that made me feel. I will never forget going back to my dorm and crying. I'd like to tell you that I cried because I was so heartbroken that those pictures were someone's current reality, but the truth is that I cried because I felt so stupid...how could I not know something so bad was going on? How could I not have paid any attention?

"We wouldn't have stood for that." We said. "We would have called it evil and not accepted it." We were sure. "We wouldn't just go about our lives, letting that happen." But would we have? 

What's happening right now in Charlottesville is nothing other than pure evil (and if you think anything different, you need to examine the amount of evil abiding in your own heart). Call it what it is. Speak out against it in whatever capacity you have. 

This is not the world I want my son to grow up in. This is not what I want him to think is normal, just because this is the time and place he was born. And so I will teach him: This is not okay. This is evil. 

I've seen a lot of different versions of the statement, "If you are wondering how you would've acted during Nazi Germany or during the Civil Rights Movement, look at how you're acting now." I agree. 

Speak up. Say it out loud. This is evil, and it is not okay. 

If you have kids, please, please teach them that this is not okay. That to hate someone because of their race is unacceptable. That it is pure evil. 

Say it out loud. To your family, to your friends, to your coworkers. It's not the time to be quiet. 
If your heart is breaking today, if you are outraged and hurt...you're doing it right. 

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