Recently, I took my family on an epic tour of the eastern United States. We saw many things, most of which was meticulously planned over the course of several months. But I discovered that the most meaningful was not that which was planned, but something that was found by accident. Something that my months of research missed.
We were in Boston. A city I have long wanted to visit, a city that I immediately fell in love with, a city which I will visit again. The plan for Boston was simple, walk the Freedom Trail. See where our country began. The sites, still standing, which marked the beginning of our Revolution. It was warm that day, very warm. My children were growing tired. We had reached the Old State House, the location where the Boston Massacre occurred. They couldn’t go any further. They were hot, and tired. The two miles left on the trail was simply out of the question. Reluctantly, I agreed with my husband to leave the trail and head back to our car. Thus, we turned up Congress Street to head to our parking garage on Sudbury. And that’s when we found it. 6 glass towers, rising 54 feet. Each tower stood atop a grate, releasing steam from the glowing coals beneath. One would think that adding steam to a hot summer day would be oppressive. Instead, as I walked through those towers I was no longer hot, but chilled.
This one time, I want you to not look at the big picture. Instead look closer. Ignore the city beyond the glass. Past even, the poignant words etched in black. Closer. Do you see it? I’ll help you.
Numbers in glass. 132 panels of numbers etched in glass. A fraction of what occurred. Each number, a representation of something that should be much more than a mere number in glass. A life. Millions of lives. Reduced to nothing more than a number etched in glass. It was a powerful site to see. Humbling. Tragic. And in the light of the events of this weekend, all the more poignant. Because as we sit in the comfort of our homes, watching with horror and outrage at the events unfolding, we all too easily forget that this has happened before.
The events in Virginia are sadly, nothing new. Not to the world, not to America. They are, frankly, all too common. But we have the benefit, now in 2017, to look at the past and learn from it. We have the power to not allow the past to repeat itself. We have an OBLIGATION to do so. We, especially all white people, are OBLIGATED to speak against the events in Virginia. But none of this ‘both sides’ nonsense. We must speak out against the protest began with the angry white men. Nazis. We cannot allow this to be simply shrugged away under the guise of free speech. It is time for the Confederacy to die. For Nazism to die. We must rise up against these ideas. We cannot allow it to be someone’s ‘opinion.’ It cannot, now, nor ever again, be tolerated. In any form. We must stand up and shout, “NEVER AGAIN.” And we must mean it. We, not a single one of us, can afford to be silent on this. We cannot excuse it away. Condemn it, every one of you. Loudly. Publicly. Because if you do not, then you are complicit in what follows. Intentions matter for shit if you aren’t willing to stand up when things go sideways. I don’t care about your vote. I don’t care about your ‘intent.’ STAND UP!!
This has all happened before. And if we are not careful, it WILL happen again. Because this is how it begins. EVERY. TIME.
With angry white men. EVERY. TIME. If we don’t stand up and condemn it now, then we are well and truly lost. And so is the dream of America. As long as we allow for this we cannot, nor will we ever, be ‘great.’ The problem with America isn’t immigration. It isn’t LGBTQ persons. It isn’t Muslims, or Atheists, or Liberals. It isn’t BLM. It’s this:
This right here. And our silence which allows it to march through our streets because ‘free speech,’ and ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ NO! No, they are not entitled to the opinion that numerous groups of people don’t have the right to exist. The opinion that the color of one’s skin makes them less than. The idea of white supremacy. Such ideas are not only anathema to the ideas upon which America was supposedly founded upon, but to humanity in general. For as long as we allow for these ideas to exist, we will always end up here. Always.
Eighteen million. Let that sink in. Eighteen million lives lost in those camps. Jews, Romani, Slavs, People of Color, Homosexuals. Gone. Erased. Because these ideas were allowed to continue. Because far too many refused to take a stand against it. And the reasons why they refused to stand up don’t matter a whole hell of a lot in regards to what was lost. Yes, many of those that stood joined those numbers in glass. But I know I would rather be a number in glass, then one who refused to speak against true evil. Because even those who were too afraid to speak up are complicit it what occurred.
We must stand. We must speak. Because we have seen where silence leads. What does it say about us as a nation, as a people, as a human being if we do not stand now? If we do not decry what occurred in Virginia this weekend? If we allow this to be tolerated? If we are complacent? Because this is how it begins. Every time. This is how it always began. And this is how it ends.
With numbers in glass.